Some of you might know that I used to be on a couple of websites for young writers. And even if you don't know, you might have been on some yourself. (And maybe you were never a young writer trying to get attention via the Internet, and so this post will not be relatable to you.) There are, and were, many popular ones: Figment, Wattpad, Quizilla, the late Inkpop, and of course, the one I spent half my life on, Scholastic's Write It (which was less popular, and super heavily moderated). In my opinion, which I've expressed before, a writing community is SO important for young writers. It provides support in a world that's often against you, it provides critique when your parents might just be impressed you're writing at all, it provides information about the writing world, it provides inspiration, and most importantly, it provides great friends with similar interests.
Then again, sometimes creating a community full of dramatic, moody artists (not to stereotype all writers, but let's be real, we're a dramatic bunch) in the midst of puberty, especially considering how competitive young writers can get... There are some crazy things that are bound to happen. I decided to reminisce about my old days on Write It and the others and make a list of ten things that happen on young writers' forums...
1. Endless self-promotion
When you write a book for the first time, you don't want to edit it, or even finish writing it, before you get people to read it. You want people to tell you how great it is RIGHT NOW. Unfortunately, everyone else on the forum also wants their stuff read and praised. And no one wants to do the reading. So there's constant "Read my story!" posts. And then "Why doesn't anyone read my story?" posts. And then "WHY DIDN'T ANYONE READ THE MAGIC OF THE ESIKRALMINOS!!! I'M SO MAD!!!" posts. If you're lucky, like I was when I posted that last one at age ten, the other writers will sympathize. If not, you'll get a barrage of comments telling you what an attention seeker you are.
2. "The mods are suppressing my artistic style!"
Young writers' forums are usually created by well-meaning adults trying to stimulate creativity among teens. They also want to make sure that the teenagers don't curse at each other, talk about inappropriate topics, or try to stalk each other. What they don't realize is that they are not dealing with teenagers. They are dealing with Artists. Artists who cannot be Censored by this Evil Dictatorship of the Mods. There will probably be an uprising, involving an email chain (guess what- they did stalk each other, and find each others' emails) with a group title like "Figmenters Against Censorship" or "Wattpadders Against The Fascist Mods" or something. Inevitably, they will fail, and be furious about this injustice for, like, a week.
3. The friend from school who also likes to write
It's not just the Internet where writers become friends. Sometimes, in middle school or high school, there'll be two friends who are both writers. Since writers tend to be incredibly competitive, jealous, and bitter, this usually only works when one of them is less serious than the other, so the more serious one can think, "Ah. Well for her, it's just a hobby, so it's not like she's really competition." (though not always- I have good IRL friends who can write really well. But like. I didn't accept that fact until maybe a year ago). Anyway. So every so often, one of the writers on the forums will bring their friend who likes to write to join the forum. There'll be a big introduction, everyone will say hello, the person will put up their crappy short story about an orphan who suffers from depression, and then two weeks later, they're never seen again.
4. The Alpha Writer
Young writers usually think they're the best writer ever, mostly because they've never been exposed to other serious writers their age. It's a surprise to find out there are other writers just as good as they are when they get on the Internet. And then. Along comes the writer who is not just as good as they are, but ten thousand times better. Everyone stews with secret jealousy and starry-eyed admiration. How did they get this good? They are your age! They have been on this earth as many years as you have! They usually become the Supreme Ruler of your group, because everyone worships them. Hopefully, they are a humble and benevolent ruler, and pretend like your writing is worth reading too.
5. Stalking expeditions
Since, like I said, young writers' forums are usually pretty heavily moderated, it's difficult to share personal information. But once friendships develop, you want to talk with your writing friends off of the website, become Facebook friends, maybe even meet in real life. However, there's no way this is going to happen via the writing forum itself. So you have to get creative. You use the little personal information you have and scour the Internet, using your writerly researching skills. The smallest thing can lead you to a world of super personal information. One of my friends from Write It found out a lot of our home addresses. Luckily, she was not, as we all feared, a forty-year-old man. Such stalking expeditions led to Ch1Con, which you can still apply for! SHAMELESS PROMOTION!
6. "This sounds like a real book"
This comment appears so often on young writers' forums. I don't get it. What were they expecting? A fake book? I know, I know, they were expecting a badly written short story with no paragraph breaks. But still, it's funny to read.
7. Homemade awards ceremonies
This happened on several of the young writers' websites I was on. Once a community is formed, you want to do something fun to commemorate all the stuff you've been through together. But, in a way that pins you against each other, so you can still be competitive. Since the moderators will never in a million years admit that anyone is better than anyone else, the users themselves spend hours putting together elaborate award ceremonies. Best Overall Writer. Best Short Story. Funniest Book. Most Popular User. Most Romantic User. Etc. They're fun, until you realize those awards are never going to be taken seriously on query letters like you thought they would be.
8. Death threats about writing excerpts
It's easy to procrastinate on working on your book. But nothing gets you inspired to get writing like threats of death, assassins, rotten tomatoes, banana poisoning, murderous giant rodents, I think at some point there was a threat of Justin Bieber nail polish, though I'm not sure what that was supposed to do. Once you get an audience hooked on your terrible first draft, you realize that the fun of getting attention for your writing only lasts so long before they demand that you write more. Makes you kind of feel for those writers on deadlines that you get mad at. Still not forgiving Maggie Stiefvater for pushing back the release date for The Raven King though. She can get banana poisoning for all I care. (Just kidding, I understand the pressure. BUT STILL)
9. The Abandoned Collab Novel
With so many amazingly talented writers in one place, the idea is bound to come up. Obviously, you need to all write a novel together! It'll be about magic. No, a murder mystery! No, a boarding school! OK, but there has to be a romance. It'll be so good. Each person gets a chapter. For the first few chapters, it goes OK, though the constantly changing writing style is jarring- but editing will fix that. Then, the plot twists come in. Characters die- and then get resurrected by someone who disagreed about the death decision. New characters appear to fix problems. The promises of "what we said we're not going to do" get broken. After a while, someone skips their chapter, and then the next person does, and the next. A year later, someone brings it up. "Oh yeah, that collab? Ha ha- wasn't that terrible?" Such high hopes, crushed.
10. Your Writing From Seventh Grade is On the Internet Forever
Of all the embarrassing and crazy moments of young writers' forums, this has got to be the scariest. What if someone finds all that awful stuff you wrote? They'll see your cliche-ridden, terribly-paced, nightmare of a first novel! Then again, they'll see the fans who inexplicably loved it, as well. No matter how terrible of a writer you were, someone provided support for you. Every time I go back to Write It and cringe at "WHY ISN'T ANYONE READING THE MAGIC OF THE ESIKRALMINOS" I also smile at the comments reassuring me that I'll get better one day and people will love to read my work. It was mainly due to the very people in that comments section that I did get better as a writer.
Aw, why'd I have to ruin a perfectly good funny listicle with a sappy ending? Whatever. If you have any other quintessential writing-forums stories to share, write them in the comments! I'd love to hear them.
Thanks for reading, and see you on Saturday,