When you think of tips or advice for writers, what comes to mind probably concerns the writing itself.
We are a school, a center, for writing. Of course, we want to help you write more, and write better. I have said before, though, that what sets us apart from other writing organizations is our focus on creativity. Still, the moments of creative inspiration happen before and during the writing process, and the bulk of writing advice in the world is about that process.
But what about when the writing is finished? For some writers, the easy part is getting the words down. The challenging and even scary part might be showing them to someone. If writing comes naturally most of the time, but sharing your writing makes you anxious, this post is for you.
First, what do we mean by the word “audience”? Simply put, an audience is whoever is reading your writing. We turn to others when we get stuck because often a different perspective or fresh insights can get us moving forward again. Your writing audience could be one person or the entire internet. You need to consider whether you want to start small or shoot for the stars. Second, what are your expectations? You might be seeking feedback, or not (yet). Knowing what you want out of the experience of sharing your writing will help you find and open up to the right audience for you.
So think about where you are right now and where you want to go in your writing practice, then read on for guidance on who to bring along:
Ready to go!
If you are: New or returning to writing and want to take the first step toward improvement
Audience goal: Start with one person. Do you know even one other writer? Whether that person is someone you know online or “in real life,” they should be close to your level of experience and have similar goals. If you don’t know that person yet, put out some feelers. We establish friendships based on mutual interests; so if you write or want to write, having a writing friend is crucial. Writing friends are like workout buddies: they keep us going when we want to give up and make us feel good about ourselves and our progress. Try making a list of potential writing friends and reaching out to them in order of those who feel most promising. Make a plan to read each other’s work on a regular basis, to be honest and kind in your feedback, and to having conversations about your writing lives.
If you are: Stuck, blocked, or in a rut, and seeking feedback
Audience goal: Build or join writing exchange or group. Such groups are usually free and comprised of people who are motivated and experienced enough to help set group goals while still attending to individual ones. Even a book club would be a good place to start, because it’s already full of people who like reading and stories. Put out a call on social media to see if there are any local writing or book-related gatherings you could attend. Either you will find one, or you will engage with people who might want to start one with you. Once you join or start a group, have a thoughtful conversation about its function. Manage your expectations; we join writing groups for insight and camaraderie, not to be showered with praise or drilled with criticism, and not for someone else to solve our writing problems without having to do any work ourselves. Be a good community member by asking for what you want, giving as much thoughtful attention as you receive, and following the group’s rules.
On a roll
If you are: Regularly generating new work and want to share and make connections
Audience goal: Start a blog. Blogging is a great way to reach other writers through your own writing without making a financial investment (most of us have Wi-Fi at home, or access to it through work or a local library), or a large investment of time and energy (because your blog isn’t a group that requires your regular feedback on the writing of your colleagues). Test-drive blogging by joining Medium and trying to establish a consistent writing presence there. Use social media to announce and promote your posts and—this is key—writing by others that you admire. Good bloggers are not just writers, but curators. Ideally, your readers will want to know what you have to say, but also what you like. Share your own bylines for sure, but also writing you admire by others—on topics you write about, in a style or tone similar to yours. That’s how you show you belong, and how you make your readers feel like they have found a place (on your platform) where they belong, too.
If you are: Practiced, connected, and ready to try publishing
Audience goal: Take a class or hire a private editor or teacher. When you are almost ready to “go pro,” it might be time to consult a pro. While we’re partial to our own, there are literally hundreds of online writing courses and virtual writing retreats from which to choose. Meet and commune with other writers, workshop your favorite near-finished pieces, and ask for industry advice from instructors and peers so you can research the market. If you don’t want to take a class, you can hire working teachers, editors, and writers to evaluate your work and guide you toward publishing opportunities. While in-person events are few and far between during the pandemic, many writing conferences and readings have adapted to a virtual format. “Drop in” and take advantage of these gatherings to network with professionals.
Which kind of audience are you seeking? Have you or will you try any of these approaches to growing your readership? Share with us in the comments!
Related reading: Learn and strengthen your writing voice
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