The Write Place: A Guide to Writers' Chatrooms


Vision 68


The Write Place:

A Guide to Writers' Chatrooms


Simon Batt

Copyright © 2012, Simon Batt, All Rights Reserved



Writing is a lonely business. We may have a lot of friends and family to give us support, but when it comes down to The Deed, it's a relationship between the writing utensil of choice and ourselves. Unfortunately, the relationship can be rocky at best, and we need to talk to actual human beings who don't break, malfunction, or delete entire Word documents without warning. And actually talk back.


There are many different ways to meet up with fellow writing lunatics, but the one that I've been addicted to for the past two months is the chatroom. The chatroom is simply a window in a browser or client which people connect to and type messages into. If you use an instant messaging client (Windows Live, Yahoo Messenger, AOL Instant Messenger), it's a similar format, but anyone can join. It's a great way to connect with people all over the world and have discussions about writing; however, chatrooms also have their own little quirks which takes a little bit of time of getting used to in order to get the most of them.


Here are a few guidelines to keep in mind when deciding to join a writer's chatroom. These may or may not apply to you, and they're not strict rules per-se, but they're a great way to start off if you're unfamiliar with how chatrooms really function.


1 – Watch and Learn


This sounds like a weird thing to do, but it's essential to mixing in with an online community. An ideal way of mixing in with a new group of people is to watch how the community in question operate, so that you can get to grips with the general 'feel' and fit in as quickly as possible. Usually this means testing the waters before engaging with the community on a large scale.


The second you join your chosen chatroom, you might be tempted to talk about your books, link to your Amazon page, tell everyone about your blog, or post excerpts from your book and ask for people's opinions. These are definitely not things which are outright banned in all chatrooms, but the one you joined might have general etiquette around doing such activity. Breaching the rules could easily get you kicked out of the chatroom, especially if you're a newcomer. If in doubt, either watch and learn how the regulars act, or ask a regular about what you can and can't do. First impressions are important – take time to not step on anyone's toes in the precious first week!


How much you should watch and learn depends on the chatroom you join – some chatrooms will generally ignore the fact a new user has joined and will continue to talk, allowing you to see what things they talk about and what they do. With the chatroom I joined, I intended to stay back and watch for a short time to get a feel for the community. Immediately upon joining, however, everyone stopped their conversation and began talking to me, asking me questions and getting to know me. It was the equivalent of sitting in the seats in a theatre to watch a group rehearse their play, and being dragged out of your seat and given the lead role of the play by all of the beaming, enthusiastic cast members. The users were more than willing to tell me about how the community works and what's allowed, which meant I didn't have to do much watching at all!


In short, don't rush into a community. Take your time, get a feel, and ask if you're unsure.

2 – You'll Find People Better Than You


You've settled in, you've learnt the general etiquette, and you're now an accepted new member of the chatroom. Congratulations! At this point, you'll be making new friends, and asking questions such as “how long have you been writing for?”. If you're anyone like me, you'd think everyone had had a few years experience, which is totally shattered when most of them reveal they've been writing for longer than you've existed.


There's a good chance you'll find people who you feel are better than you. This can be in several forms – they've published more books than you, you feel they have a better writing style than you, they have a better typing speed than you, or they seem to be wise and sage-like in the world of literacy, making you feel like a gigantic ignoramus. Even if you're quite proficient in the field, there might be one or two people who you feel just do better in general. It's entirely natural.


The key to fighting this is to always keep going regardless of how good everyone else seems to be, and how much of a fraud you feel. In fact, it would be a great idea to talk to those people about what makes you feel inferior to them (“How did you manage to create suspense in that scene? I love it!”) so that you can pick up a few ideas yourself on how to approach writing. Remember; you may feel they're better than you, but you're in a great position to talk to them and really get to know that person. View these people not as rivals or competition, but as teachers.


It's also a good idea to realise that what you feel may not be straight-up fact. Sure, that writer you admire may seem to be a bastion of all things writing, with incredible confidence and the ability to make a brilliant story every time, but they may fall flat on parts you do in your sleep. Don't sweat the small things – just keep doing what you do best!


3 - Take Advice With A Pinch Of Salt


People love to be heard. We're all stuffed full of advice and guidance and we love to help those in need. As a result, when you talk about an issue in your book or let slip the fact that you don't know much about a subject, you may be bombarded by advice from fellow chatters.


People are generally good with handling advice – consider all advice, and take the ones you feel would genuinely make your work better. This changes in a chatroom environment, especially when the person giving the advice is the author who has won so many awards for their writing they don't even bother to use wallpaper – the trophies along the wall cover it up fine. When this person decides to pinpoint your problem as their focus and lays down the advice of “You know, you should write while upside-down. It really helps,” it becomes very hard to not immediately bow to their supreme knowledge and glue your workstation to the ceiling. Even in the face of these awe-inspiring, incredibly experienced people, you have to keep doing your thing, lest you start doing your writing how someone else wants you to. Besides, if you stick around the chatroom long enough, you'll constantly see conflicting advice being passed around at different times, sometimes clashing in the middle when two opposing forces are online at the same time. Keep your head high and don't treat advice as gospel purely based on the person who said it!


4 – Don't Judge People Based On Their Writing


If the chatroom you joined is not a genre-specific chatroom, you'll be meeting authors of every walk of life writing books about every walk of life. This often means that you'll be encountering people who write genres that you're not too enthusiastic about, or maybe even loathe. It's okay to not like a genre, but problems start arising if you begin to make rifts with fellow chatter due to their chosen genre. The same goes for if you think a chatter is a fraud or 'not a real writer' – not only is this mentality bad to begin with, but if you start presenting these ideas in the chat, it can easily become toxic to the community spirit as a whole.


If people begin talking about a genre you dislike, leave the chat alone for a while and get back to writing. It may be tempting to say something along the lines of “Oh grief, I hate this stuff. I'm off,” but such comments only cause rifts. Calmly remove yourself from the chatroom and wait for it to drift to another topic, then simply resume chatting. Simple!


5 – Type Well


Writers spend a lot of the time writing (hopefully). Their entire craft is based around writing and how they utilise the English language, and some of them pride themselves on their ability to use it on an advanced level. With this in mind, it's easy to see that writers appreciate it if you type proper English in a chatroom!


It may seem a little pedantic, but typing in shorthand or in text-speak can lead to people disliking you. Most people are not put off by common internet acronyms (LOL, BRB), although people who do are indeed out there. The real problems begin when you start dropping vowels out of every word to shorten your sentences, meaning the chatroom has to build an enigma machine purely to understand what you're talking about. Capitalise your first words, dot your sentences and spell your words fully, and you'll get far with this piece of advice!


6 – Remember To Have Fun!


It's hard to imagine that after all this advice, all of the warnings and all of the encouragement, that people actually do this for fun. They do! I do, and the people I talk to do too. Networking is great, but so is your mental health and overall enjoyment with what you do. Don't stress the small things, go in with a fun attitude, and bail out as soon as things start turning very sour for whatever reason. Get the most out of the situation and enjoy being with other people. Who knows – you may be making friends for life!


So that's it. Go out there, look around for a chatroom, join in and get involved. Hopefully you'll find a bunch of awesome people to talk to who will share your joys and miseries, and you can finally stop talking to your cat about why you're confident about your next novel idea. Have fun!