On-line writing forums are great, but if you don’t manage them carefully they can become a black hole that absorbs all your writing energy, leaving you no time for writing.
I know from personal experience.
Some danger signs, and how to avoid them.
Logging on to the forum before you do any writing
I used to do this to get into the mood for writing, and for a while it worked. But then I found I was spending so much time on the forums I had no time left to write.
Nowadays, I do my writing first and visit the forums later—if I’m not too busy writing to bother.
If I ever do pop into a forum before I start, I watch the clock, and try to get out within the hour.
The dead end relationship
Any forum loses members through natural attrition. People drop out, or get other interests.
In my experience a forum that has shrunk to a dozen or less active members, all of whom know each other intimately (on the web, at least), and whose posts can really only be understood by the other regular posters, is not worth it.
If you find that you are one of those last half-dozen posters on a site, and that it has become a general purpose chat session rather than specifically about writing, maybe it is time to jump ship.
Most forums have a finite life. Sometimes it’s kinder to let a dead forum go than to hang on to the bitter end. (The bitter end being when the person hosting the forum pulls the plug.)
If you really like the people in the forum, then by all means keep in touch, but if you’re in it for the writing don’t hang around simply out of loyalty.
The too scared to post forum
Everyone should lurk a little in a forum before they post.
Like any other social setting you need to know the do’s and don’ts before you start blasting away with your own opinion.
Once you know the etiquette, however, you shouldn’t be afraid to contribute.
If everything you post gets savaged, find another forum. You are not doing yourself or your writing any favours by sticking around.
(Inappropriate posting is a totally different matter —worthy of a whole subject to itself. I am amazed at the number of writers who ask people to review their work, for example, on forums that clearly state they do not do this.)
Used properly, online writing forums can be a great tool for a writer, but choose your forum carefully and beware of the traps mentioned above.