They say writing is a lonely profession, and that may have been true before the advent of social media and the internet. Today we have hashtags, so many hashtags, for every stage of the writing process.
After some sage advice from writer, Eve Smith, I joined the #amwriting twitter community shortly after completing the first draft of my novel. I was already on Twitter, but I didn’t understand it fully. It was more of a voyeuristic foray towards stalking favourite actors with some politics thrown in. At first I didn’t know what to make of this Twitter subset. Should I even be there? I had ten followers and no ideas. Then came The International Bath Award, #BNA2018. I entered, along with many hundreds of others from around the world. The thing about Bath is it’s fun. There is that moment of nervousness when you press send and the nail biting wait until longlist day, but Bath does something else that makes every entrant feel part of the process, they post comments by the judges in the run up to longlist day. A snippet here, a golden yes there, all announced at 12pm and each met with a flurry of comments of ‘That’s amazing!’, ‘Yes, I recognise it!’ and gifs, so many gifs. Before long I recognised names and I engaged with the #writingcommunity.
As responses turned into brief conversations, so the number of people I followed rose along with those who followed back. To the disbelief of my teenagers, I soon had 50 followers.
What came next was a revelation. Two years ago, the Curtis Brown writing academy, @cbcreative held a week-long writing event, #WriteCBC. I thought I’d give it a go. And so did a whole gang of others. We entered every day, commented, liked each other’s entries, posted gifs, and celebrated wins and shout-outs. It was joyous and none of us wanted it to end. A group of us continued, providing writing prompts throughout the summer of 2018. Four of us, who happen to live relatively near each other met up for cake and coffee.
We were not virtual friends anymore, we had become a tribe. We are the Virtual Writing Group or #VWG for short. Through our own Twitter handle, @virtwriting. We run regular events for our 1800 followers with weekly prompts, #Maggie Monday and the annual #VWGAdvent Calendar. We have met up at book launches, done Twitter ‘Pile Ons’ when one of our number gets an agent, a book deal, is longlisted, shortlisted and occasionally, wins a literary competition. We share and read the flash fiction, short stories, and micro-fiction. We beta read, give out helpful tips when we discover them. We are there for the celebrations, but above all we are there for the days when writing is tough, and believe me, that happens to everyone, no matter where you are on the writing ladder. Come and say hello and join us @virtwriting.
Writing can be lonely if you choose it to be so. But you can also work in solitude, knowing that your tribe is there at the end of an internet connection, ready to solve problems, recommend books or make you laugh with some quite suspect humour.
On that first phone call with Eve Smith, she told me to find my tribe. I’ve done that and I couldn’t be more grateful for her advice and the generous support and friendship of #VWG.
Happy Second Birthday to all my #VWGian friends, old, new and yet to come.
Books by #VWGians
@evecsmith’s debut #TheWaitingRooms is published by @OrendaBooks.