Four years ago, in July of 2006, I made the big decision. I wanted to be a professional writer. I’d been piddling around with a story for a year or so “just for fun”. Now here I was with a newborn—my first time without a job since I turned sixteen. What better way to spend my free time than pursuing my lifelong passion of writing? (And yes, I realize “free time” with a newborn is an oxymoron, but that’s another post altogether!)
So, now I’d made this big decision. I wanted to write with the intention of being published one day. Where do I start? What does being a professional writer entail? Where do I even get started?
Well, I believe I typed the words “fiction writing” in the Google search engine and hit enter. One trillion gazillion hits…great. That was a lot of help. So I pulled on my big girl panties and started clicking on every link.
One of the first websites I visited was Writing.Com. At first glance, it was a little intimidating. An interactive site where writers share and critique each other’s work—did they expect me to share too?
After some consideration, I decided to create my own account and portfolio. I had some poetry and short stories, plus several chapters of my novel that I could upload to test out the site. I was having a blast exploring and giving writers very short opinion statements along the lines of “I really enjoyed this” (b/c who was I to critique anyone, I didn’t know what I was doing).
Then it happened.
A couple of days in, I ran across The Novel Workshop. A workshop created for novel writers (a lot of WDC is made up of shorter pieces: poetry, short stories, articles, etc.) with the goal of helping writers pursue their dreams of publication through critiques and workshops. Broken down by genres for critiques, but brought together for the workshops, this was right where I needed to be.
I joined the YA genre (my first novel was a mainstream YA) and very timidly wrote my first review of a fellow member’s chapter. This is what you have to do first to get your novel up on the forum board to be reviewed. Hot dog! It wasn’t nearly as hard as I thought with their required review layout.
And then I was hooked on WDC.
I’ve participated in many groups and activities besides The Novel Workshop. Writing.Com offers a wide variety of activities for writers of all levels. From contests and writing groups to classes and support groups, there is definitely something for everyone.
So, how does it work?
When you get on Writing.Com, you first register for an account/portfolio. WDC offers free accounts, but there are paid ones as well that allow you to do different things. The paid ones offer such amenities as larger portfolios, less/no ads, the ability to host your own group/forum, even have your own website from their server.
Once you’ve registered, you can create items in your portfolio. With each item you have total control over everything from presentation to privacy. So many people are worried about privacy on sites like these, as we don’t want our work stolen. This isn’t as big of deal as we may think, but to ease your fears, WDC offers levels of privacy. You can make your item available to everyone, or restrict it to WDC members of a certain level or a certain group. You can even make it private with a passcode that you give out to those you want to review your item.
Each item can also be critiqued by others. With a scale of 1-5 plus a text box, people can leave their feedback and/or gift points (GPs I’ll explain in a minute). This is a great way to gage where you are in your writing. Granted, each review should be taken with great discernment. Some reviewers are brand new writers, some experienced with their own published books. Some people know what they’re talking about…some have not a clue, but like to act like they do. The best way to get reviews is to give reviews! People are usually pretty good about returning the favor.
WDC is a lot like its own little community, complete with its own monetary system. Gift points (GPs) are a currency that allows you to do a variety of things. You can use GPs to purchase sigs, raffle tickets, or items from the WDC store. You can even use them as a reward for reviewing, or as a gift when you review something really awesome.
WDC is very dear to my heart. It’s where I got my start in writing, and where I learned enough to get me on the right track. I’ve participated in contests…even hosted a few. I’ve been a member of several groups, from The Novel Workshop to Open Door to Grace (a prayer group for fellow writers) to Freelance Lighthouse (a group dedicated to helping start your freelance writing business). I’ve enjoyed getting to know other writers through the IM, chat, and email program. I’ve made friendships that are very precious to me. I have a handful of critique partners that I love and trust…even one in Canada and one in England!
I highly recommend that you take the time to check WDC out! You may get hooked—just like me! Oh, and if you’re not a writer, you can still create an account just to get in there to read and review. You’ll never run out of things to read!