Thursday, November 8, 2007

Who You Talkin' To?

Maven Lacey KayeWe're talking about online communities over here in MavenLand this week, and you can't really talk about online communities without talking about publisher-sponsored contests and forums. Ok, well, maybe you can, but it's my day so we have to go along with what I want to talk about.

When I first got the idea to try writing a novel, I went directly to the homepage of the authors I read the most at the time. Up to this point, I had only used their websites to figure out the order their backlists were supposed to be read and to get sneak peeks at new titles. I would savor excerpts and cover art and wish away the months before I could have that new book in my hot little hands. ARC was a term I'd never heard before. I had never even considered the possibility I could get a book before it was due out. (I didn't know I could find a book early by looking around town, either, my point being that I basically knew jack about the publishing world, period.)

From my favorite authors I found the Avon Authors Forum. WOW. From a reader's perspective, this was a goldmine. I could not BELIEVE all my favorite authors (because at the time, I read Avon authors almost exclusively without even realizing it) were collected right there in ONE place. And many of them were online, chatting with readers! They hit the discussion boards at least as often as I did!

From there, I found three sources of information: 1) Jenna Peterson, who is always, always generous with her time and knowledge, 2) the Aspiring Romance Writers loop, run by a fellow discussion board member, and 3) Romantic Inks, which at the time was called Romantically Inclined (which, turns out, if not entered into your browser correctly is also a porn site).

At each of those points, I made connections with other human beings. Those connections built upon each other so quickly that the internet became addictive in record time. I mean, SHOCKINGLY fast and surprisingly hard to quit. I would have told you three years ago that I would never, ever be addicted to things like online message boards, blogs, and email. It never would have crossed my mind as a possibility. But the very first time I saw someone respond to my comment on a forum... *chills* It was crack.

(I see Blogger has added an option to have comments posted after yours emailed directly to you. That's like crack on crack.)

Anyway, I think FanLit and and the American Title contests all provide that first hit of crack for a lot of people. We start out as readers, or as readers dabbling with that first, second, or sixth book idea, and then we find out... people can read my stuff! I don't even have to be published! It's crack on speed!

Is crack speed? I have no idea.

So I know FanLit, in particular, did a great job of bringing all of the above together. They had a discussion forum, real, live multi-published authors commenting (on YOUR work!), blogging, and the like, and then they had a publishing venue for the masses. It was like the perfect trifecta of addictive, engaging crack, and it was perfect.

I just used perfect twice. Gah. That's how good it was.

I think the top really blew off when the people on the forums (using actual crack to stay up 36 hours in a row) realized there were other people on the forums who had blogs. Whoa. And those blogs were linked to other blogs. And the next thing you know, mom1974 is able to read through the archives of suzie59 and bam! instant connection. It's like you know that person. Only you don't. Because it's the illusion of the internet.

And now one of those imaginary people is at my house. Because we're all really real people, floating around Al Gore's internet, hoping to run into other real people -- preferably ones who will publish our books (and ones who will read them) -- making the internet that elusive mix of anonymous and not, creepy and absolutely perfect.

Just don't get me started on those SciFi people. Weirdos! :-)

Tell me: when you first got hooked on the internet, what was your biggest surprise? Was it that there's actually normal people on the internet? Was it that you could stand to look at yourself in the morning after spending all night chatting with a complete stranger through this backward, still-motion chat technology we call message boards? Was it that you can learn some stuff on the internet that's not only true, but actually useful? Have you ever met anyone online in real life through a venue that wasn't the National conference?


Gillian Layne said...

Never posted on line in my life before Fanlit. And I too had never heard the term ARC (and it took me an embarrassingly long time to figure it out!). I remember the first story I posted; I also knew NOTHING about formatting, and if anyone had been snarky or condescending about it, that would have been it; I would have run for the hills. But everyone was so darn nice, explaining everything to me.
I wonder if it's just the community of romance writers that are so supportive, or if other interest groups are as well.

Anonymous said...

Gillian, I'd have to say there are other groups that are supportive, just depends on the forum I suppose.

When I first got email, I was in college and it was on a server called Kermit. I remember it because of Kermit the Frog obviously, but it was boring. I never talked to anyone other than people I knew who had email, all 5 of them.

I didn't even know about romance- on-the-web until much, much later after I actually wrote something, realized I could make other writer friends, and got DSL.

I have several friends from the internet, most I've met in real life, 1 or 2 are email/phone friends. For someone as paranoid and introverted as I am, that's an acomplishment.

Now, I'm serious when I say I couldn't live without it.

Carrie Ryan said...

I'm the type of person who loves to read blog archives, esp of newly sold/published writers. Recently, I did this and then I *totally* felt like I knew this person (I'm talking archives from 2003 -- took me a week of reading during odd moments) and yet to them I'm a total stranger. I've never figured out a way to reconcile this :)

Makes me wish I had a more exciting blog archive :)

Darcy Burke said...

I should have included this in my post yesterday, but the Internet and its various and wonderful possibilities can be a bit intimidating. I'm attracted and repelled by the same time, which I guess is the danger of an addiction right? Ooh, I love that. I'd like that. Must have that. Wait, too much is baaaad. Must show restraint, must have control. Gaaaah!

Great, great post. And the Avon Forum board is the best place ever. That's where I met Maven Lacey! And I can't remember how I got there except that it was when I too got serious about writing an actual book.

Carrie, you are too funny!

B.E. Sanderson said...

I got addicted to a forum last year. I detoxed myself. I'm probably addicted to blogging now, but since it seems to be helping my life rather than hurting it, I'm not too worried.

I've met lots of people from online, but not since I started writing. Heck, I met my husband online. One of these days, I'd like to meet some of you. I'd like to someday meet in person my CP - who's a great gal but lives 1500 miles away. Someday.

Bill Clark said...

it's my day so we have to go along with what I want to talk about

I do so love a woman who knows her own mind! ;-)

lacey kaye said...

Gillian: We should add ARC to urbandictionary or Wikipedia or something. But then, I guess we'd be giving away this delicious secret, so maybe not...

Christine, I don't remember Kermit but even when I went to college I didn't use email that often, even though it was readily available. "Community" is really the keyword here, I think. A bunch of like-minded people clicking Refresh or Send/Receive is what makes this thing so darn addictive.

Carrie, having kept up with your blog for many months now, I would say you definitely have an interesting blog! Hey, that's pretty much how *we* met...

Darcy, are you saying the internet is like a Bad Boy? :-P

B.E., I'd love to know how you met your husband online. eHarmony?

Bill, you always make me laugh.

Marnee Bailey said...

Lacey, a wonderful blog. :)

I love all the things you mention about the internet!!! Do I have to choose one of these?!

Though, if I didn't spend as much time on it, I would probably have finished my WIP by now. But, maybe not either, cause I didn't do so well when I was on my own before... Chicken or egg there, I suppose.

B.E. Sanderson said...

It was, Lacey. I'd been a member for about six months, and only found completely incompatible men. One night I decided to do a hard-target search. I took off the distance filters and searched by my favorite author. I got maybe five hits. It would probably be more romantic if I said he was the only one I contacted, but it was between him and another guy. After sending pages and pages of letters to each one, my husband became the favorite. Six weeks of talking online and on the phone, he flew me out to meet him. By the time the weekend was over, marriage was pretty much a foregone conclusion. Six weeks after that he flew to visit me, and we got married. *happy sigh* It's been the best decision I ever made.

Sorry I rambled on. Thanks for asking. I love telling that story. =oD

Anonymous said...

I was an addict long before I became addicted to romance novels. How scary is that?

Anyhow, I loved connecting with other aspiring authors and you are so right, it's crack!

I have several places I haunt more than others, like Candice Hern's Message board, Romance Divas and Elizabeth Boyle's blog. I can't get enough of these sites!

Tez Miller said...

What I found surprising is that I can write to authors, and they actually reply. And some of them actually take a personal interest and read my blogs - bless them :-)

Have a lovely day! :-)

Manuscript Mavens

Manuscript Mavens