There are thousands of e-mail list out there on every subject you can imagine, and probably on a few you can’t and wouldn’t want to imagine. No matter what kind of writing you do, you can bet there are a number of lists just for that genre, or even sub genre. These on-line communities help you stay in close contact with other writers, and sometimes readers. That can mean even more to writers like myself, who live in small towns were they are no local writing groups. Many lists allow members to pass on market news, take part in weekly writing or discussion prompts, ask questions, do brain storming on stories, or even share the sadness of a rejection or the thrill of seeing your work in print.
You can find plenty of e-mail lists to get you started by using your favorite search engine and typing in something like writing mailing list directory or e-mail writing list. You can narrow your search field by adding in a key word, such as horror, freelance, or romance. Another way to locate lists is to ask other writers, or to check out links on writing websites.
Once you find a list you are interested in, there are a few things you can do to fit in and get the most out of the e-mail list experience.
- Read the welcome message. Really read the welcome message. In it you should find the information on how to send in messages, what topics the list covers, how to change your mail settings, and most importantly, the rules for the e-mail list.
- Know that every list doesn’t fit every person. Some lists are really active, with forty or more messages popping into your inbox each day from them. Others don’t generate that many posts in a month. Some lists allow social chitchat, some stick strictly to writing topics in the genre of the list. There are list that are closely monitored, and others where you are kind of on your own. It’s best to join a few lists, and then stay with the ones that are a good fit for you.
- Once you start participating, follow those rules you read in the welcome message. Also use Internet etiquette, like trimming post when you reply on list, thinking twice before you type an angry response, using the subject line correctly, placing your name and e-mail address at the bottom of messages for those who might wish to answer off list, and taking the time to send a thanks when someone answers a question you asked.
- Don’t allow mail volume to overwhelm you. If there are too many messages from a list you would really hate to leave, try using topic filters if they are offered, or setting your mail to daily digest, which means you get all of the messages, but they come in together in groups. You can quickly scan the digest and dump the whole thing if the subject lines don’t draw your interest. If you are dealing with a tight writing deadline, you can even change to no mail, or website only mail.
- Don’t get lost in all of the e-mail from your lists. All of those messages can be as tempting as a wrapped Christmas present you aren’t supposed to open. It’s too easy to get lost in your e-mail. The next thing you know hours have gone by and you haven’t done any writing at all–at least none other than e-mail. If you want to start off with e-mail before writing, set aside a certain amount of time for handling new messages. When the time is up, close your e-mail program, disconnect, and get to work. Some people even find it better to do their writing first. They set a goal on finishing an article, or writing so many pages on their novel, and then the reward is e- mail after the goal is reached.
- Keep things organized. Your inbox can become something worse than that end of the closet that catches everything that has no place else to go. The key to preventing this is folders. I have set up a number of folders in my e-mail program. They are named titles like Freelance Markets, Research, Writing, Ideas, Writing Contests, Critiques, and Agents. This makes it quick and easy for me to store links or info that I want to look over later. It also makes it quick and easy to find those messages again.
E-mail lists can be wonderful tools for writers, but learning to use any tool in the most effective way can take a little time, and a little trial and error. When you find the right list though, I think you’ll feel it was worth the effort.