Wannabe writers use online lists and discussion groups to take their craft beyond geographical boundaries
It is every writer's dream to see their words published in leading magazines. But there's a hitch. Where does one start? If you're one of the growing legions of wannabe writers, then help is at hand in the form of online discussion groups and lists.
The Indian writing scene
For the hassled, broke and aspiring writer today the friendliest way to get first-class mentoring is by joining an online writing list. By far the only online writing group exclusively for Indian freelancers, Writing India is successfully into its second year.
Hasmita Chander (30), owner of the list, has more than 100 articles and a dozen children's stories published in India, USA and UK, and says: "For a long time I wondered about other Indian freelance writers -- how many there were, who and where they were." Chander had been a part of the US writers' list and found the experience very useful. She started a similar list for Indian writers in December 2001.
Group members, ranging from serious writers to those who write as a hobby, log in regularly (once a day is the bare minimum) and leave messages. "The great thing about being a part of the list is the way we share our expertise on a subject with each other," explains Ramya (22), a student of journalism. "Our minds have really broadened. When a discussion is posted, there are so many thoughts that we an all rounded view."
Discussions about markets and publications are the best feature in writing lists. Almost all members have been benefited in one way or other. Anuradha (42), who lives in the USA, joined the list a year ago to know about the writing industry in India. An active member, she clinched a major assignment from a Japanese publisher (who pays fifty cents a word) through a market discussion.
Periodical group exercises have also been developed and sold as feature stories and articles. A short creative exercise is posted every other week and mutual 'critting' (commenting) about each other's work results in inexpensive but resourceful nitpicking and polishing. "The exercises come with a deadline, so there is no chance of procrastinating. I find developing and selling the exercises easy because the groundwork has already been done and critiqued," explains Ramya. Three of her short stories, which were originally exercises, were recently published in ezines.
Finding like-minded writers
Many members have also found writing buddies online. "It's helped me make some really good writer friends whose advice I value," says Alfred (26), from Bangalore. Like-minded members also chat and swap articles for critiquing outside the group.
Jayanthi Iyengar (43), former bureau chief Of The Economic Times, is enthusiastic about the list. After being a part of the fourth estate for two decades, Jayanthi finds freelancing lonely and has made many new friends through this group. " I am in touch with four people on the list who have become personal friends."
The list also has a generous number of writers from other countries like Hong Kong, US and Tanzania. They range from members interested in writing for Indian publications to those who enjoy interacting with Indian writers.
A retired federal employee-turned-into-fulltime freelance writer, US writer Hope C Clark (46) is famous online for her award-winning site and newsletter, Funds For Writers. Ask her the reason for joining the list and she replies, "I joined to learn about the writing industry in India. I try to keep up with markets internationally for my site and the list gives me perspective about Indian publications."
A close-knit community
"I just love this list and will stick to it as long as I can," gushes Anuradha. Many others echo the same feeling. Being a part of this list has given these writers' valuable contacts, good friendships and much-needed advice on the craft of writing.
"The bottom line is the Net has given an opportunity for the Indian writer to look beyond geographical constraints," concludes Ramya. "Earlier, she had to buy expensive books and depend on snail mail for bettering her craft and marketing her works. Now, she can aim at global markets, with personal mentoring almost on a daily basis, thanks to online writing groups."
Joining a list
Wise words for the eager writer
"Sometimes an accepted member will create problems by continuously ignoring list etiquette, in which case, after several warnings the member is removed," says Chander, who also warns about 'parasitic' members. "There are some who simply join for getting information but never share anything. That's selfish and those who don't contribute for more than two months are removed." So make sure you participate in your list activities. After all, that is the reason you joined the list in the first place.
To join the Writing India list send a blank mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. You will be sent a questionnaire based on which you will gain entry to the list. For other writing lists, search Yahoo or Topica using related keywords like fiction writing, magazine writing and children's fantasy.
More resources:Writers Write: A list of online writing lists with links to each group's site.
Discussion Group: Free discussion groups and classes for the budding writer. Special emphasis on fantasy and science fiction.
List etiquette: A primer on the dos and don'ts of writing groups and online lists.
Writing World: Online resources for writers ($6. 49, PDF ebook). A marvellous resource for writers. Donate $5 here and get it along with another ebook The Writer's Guide to Rights, Contracts, Copyright and Permissions free