Virtually Friends?

Hello, everyone! And how are you today? Had a good breakfast? Got the kids to school? Humoured your boss or already been down the gym to stretch and tone? Come on then, let’s get on with the writing day. Let’s celebrate each other’s literary successes, let’s mentally hold each other’s tired typing hand. Because that’s what we do, here on the net – regardless of our identity away from the screen, regardless of whether we stutter or dress weird or laugh like a donkey on dope. We stand firm, side by side. We’re in this game together, arms open wide.

Heh, heh! It’s a fickle community, I find on the web. Best buddies come and go – some stay in touch, even meet up with us, in the flesh. But others fall by the wayside because we’ve moved on and they haven’t or because they’ve found success first.

During my years mingling in on-line writing communities, I’ve found there are various types of virtual friends:

1) Those you email every day – every few hours! – to pour out your woes which are usually submission/writers’ block related, but occasionally to do with the real world. Messages are signed off with kisses and there are usually LOLs. They keep us going through the ups and downs. Until one day, the affair fizzles out - normally because one of us has got a deal and the other, er, hasn’t. That’s when we both find a new buddy who’ll really understand. It’s ta ta for now. Thanks for everything. If we remember, we'll buy each other's books when they come out.

2) Those that are useful to know – for their knowledge, for their clinical kiss-free advice and contacts. We are both networkers and keep each other posted with our submission progress, whilst knowing this is partly to pick up any tips or agent news. Emails are less frequent and strictly to do with writing. There are no smiley faces, but we pass on the occasional link to a new agent’s website - once we’ve submitted our own work, of course.

3) Similar to number 2, but those we see as mentors. We are in awe and feel genuine warmth for their help. We don’t like to pester but know we can rely on them for carefully worded advice and timely pick-me-ups. We wonder what they get in return and hope, one day, we’ll be in a position to know, if someone comes to us for help.

4) Banter buddies – they are some of the best! If we must, we’ll talk seriously about the craft, but most of our time is spent in forums, giggling over our latest purple sex scene or recommending a new chocolate bar. Lots of smiley faces and kisses, lots of laughs. And lots of virtual cakes and wine if any agent dares turn us down!

5) Genuine friends, whom, if we’re lucky, we get to meet in real life, who ‘get’ our real personality, who like us regardless of whether we are a writer or not. I’ve met up with authors before and wish circumstances – and location – allowed me to more often. Not that I’m advocating meeting up with any old bod. Never do it alone - or at night time. Treat it like a blind date!

So there you have it – do you recognize yourself? What kind of friends have you made from writers’ forums? I hope some of them are on this blog:)


Sarah Hilary said...

Sam, thanks for this. The internet can be a minefield and we've all heard horror stories about online writing/friendships. So it was great to read a reminder about the upside, the "when it works" moments. Very timely. Thank you

Administrator said...

Thanks, Sarah - yes, i guess i've been lucky, just the odd rare clash, never been 'virtually stalked' like someone I know in one forum.

I think a lot of it is down to having a good Webmaster, doesn't it, who can nip any trouble in the bud and bounce off any obvious internet 'trolls' (troublemakers).

Administrator said...

Or rather 'isn't it'

Susie Nott-Bower said...

Fascinating post, Sam!
I guess my virtual buddies fall into three camps:
- banter buddies (here and on WriteWords)
- encouraging and exchanging work buddies (looking at one another's synopses or the odd chapter)
- meeting buddies (so far have met three 'virtual' friends in real life and loved it.

Caroline Green said...

Very interesting post, Sam, thank you. I don't know where I would be without my online writing buddies sometimes...

Administrator said...

Hmm, nothing worse than writing in a vacuum.

I really don't know what i would have done without my virtual buddies over the last few years. Gone mad, probably.

Anonymous said...

I don't know what I would do without my online writer friends either, and the village shop/post office/pub which is to be found in the right forum for you. Mostly banter, some have turned into real-world friendships too. I've had almost no dodgy moments, and I do think the risks are sometimes over-stated, though when it happens to you it's horrid.

I remember ages ago a thread on WriteWords where someone asked who had anyone in their real-world life who understood their writing habit, and a frightening number said 'No one'. We need each other. And much of what goes onto my blog and into my PhD springs from things I first thought about on a forum thread.

Dan Holloway said...

Wonderful. And very insightful. Though I have never ever had any online writing contacts with whom there have been no smiley faces (well, maybe some, but they tend to be the ones who just get :p). I guess that's why I don't have a contract :-) It's all down to inappropriate emoticonage!

Caroline Green said...

I love that - emoticonage!

Administrator said...

Hmm, there's a lot to be said for banter, Emma - especially for those of us who don't necessarily get out to the real adult world every day.

Thanks, Dan. Must say i'm wondering what :p) is, that's a new one on me!

Susannah Rickards said...

Sam - what a good and original post. You really nailed those categories.

Online forums have been a life line for me as a writer. And I do think it's possible to find and develop real friendships over the net. I have three real life friends who I met online. The first time I met one was when I went to pick her up from the train station to come and stay with our family for the weekend. And she was as warm, witty, bright and utterly trustworthy as she seemed on the forums.

And, as you say, the banter is fab online. The silly jokes stop the writing day from becoming isolating.

Never heard of a virtual stalker, though. How creepy (and intriguing!)

Administrator said...

Thanks, Susannah.

Yes, i was pleasantly surprised on meeting WWers that people seemed much like i expected.

Hmm, can't remember the details of this stalker but it was totally uncalled-for and the Webmaster had to step in eventually.