Writing is so often a solitary act, and is viewed that way in our cultural consciousness. The image of the lonely writer, pecking away at their keyboard, is nothing if not a cliché.
And yet, writers can gain so much by reaching out to the broader community of writers around them. Join your tribe. Teach them what you know, and let them do the same.
This is by no means a complete list. These are just my favorites. If you know of a good one that's not listed here, please let me know.
- The Pacific Northwest Writers Association. The PNWA is one of the older writers associations in the United States, and is my local association. They do a great job with supporting their members through their mailing list, monthly member education meetings, and annual literary contest. They also put on an amazing writers conference every year. If you are anywhere even remotely near Seattle, you really should try to come to this one.
- Romance Writers of America. I can't speak the RWA personally, as I am not a member. However, I do know that RWA is one of the largest writers organizations in the world, and puts on an enormous writing conference every year with literally thousands of attendees. They also have a robust network of local chapters. I have twice been a speaker at the monthly meetings of one of the local RWA chapters in my area, and have been treated very well both times. RWA is good people.
- Willamette Writers. This is an organization centered in the northern Oregon area, but with a reach and reputation that is rapidly expanding well beyond its geographic region. They run an annual conference that I have as yet not had the opportunity to attend, but which people I trust speak highly of.
- Local Writers Groups. Nearly every major city--and a lot of minor ones--have writers associations as well. Search around on the web and I'll bet you find one that's within reasonable driving distance of you.
- Public Libraries. Don't overlook your local library. Even if you live in some small town far from any major writers association, there may well be a local group of writers that meets at your library. Barring that, your librarian may well know of somewhere in town--a coffee shop, maybe--where they meet. Librarians often know such things. And failing all else, ask your librarian about booking their meeting room space, and start putting up flyers to start your own writers association.
There are any number of writing-oriented websites out there, and certainly more writing blogs than any one person could ever read. Here are three, however, that I think offer particular value:
- National Novel Writing Month. Probably the granddaddy of all writing websites, NaNoWriMo probably needs no introduction. It's fair to say, though, that without NaNoWriMo, I wouldn't be where I am today. I wouldn't have started writing again if it wasn't for NaNoWriMo. It's also fair to say that NaNoWriMo does a better job than anything else I've ever seen to break that cliché of the solitary writer by creating a social framework for the activity of novel writing. If you haven't given NaNo a try, I highly encourage you to do so.
- Critique Circle. One of the best things writers can do for their writing (aside from hiring a developmental editor!) is to join a writing group and exchange critiques with other writers. However, that's not always easy to do in our busy lives. Critique Circle takes the idea of a small group of like-minded writers joined for mutual support and critique, and extends it into the online world. Critique Circle is definitely aimed at more serious writers rather than casual ones, but if that's what you're looking for, give it a try.
- WritersCafe. Similar to Critique Circle WritersCafe is a more casual critique-swap website. Where Critique Circle formalizes the relationship between members of a critique group, WritersCafe provides a more crowd-sourced, anonymous approach in the "critique a chapter, post a chapter" model. While not as serious as Critique Circle, I do recommend WritersCafe for folks who are just getting their feet wet in the game of critiquing others' writing and being critiqued themselves.