Thursday, May 7, 2009

Chat Room Primer

I’d like to talk about another tool in my writing kit – chat rooms. Now don’t roll your eyes – a chat room can be a very effective tool is used properly.

For example – those of you participating in the May Blitz know I rec’d a request for a partial on Friday night. Friday night? Yes, I was on The Wild Rose Press (TWRP) blog helping them celebrate their 3rd anniversary and during their last hour, the editor said if anyone had a ms for the Sweetheart line, pitch it in the comment section. I did and within minutes, received an email requesting a partial. What threw me was when the editor said no need to send a query letter or synopsis if I didn’t have one worked up. This pitch was very informal. Did the usual rules apply? So, Tues night I entered TWRP chat room and when the editors asked if anyone had any writing questions, I piped up and asked what time frame the editor was looking for. She wasn’t there but the other editors said usually a month but if she was cutting corners like not asking for the synopsis, etc, she wanted it quick and not to take too long. So, within a matter of minutes, my editorial question was answered.

I had no inclination to visit a chat room until last year when eHarlequin celebrated an Open House with an evening of chats and book draws. Usually, their chat schedule is spread over the month with a different time for each genre, but that night, they were all within a 4 hr span.

Entering that first chat room was like walking into a party with no idea who would be there. You might recognize some one, or no one. Of course, some people use names other than their own so it’s hard to tell who’s there anyway.

This brings up my first point: Pick a user name and password. Your user name could be anything. I went into that first chat with a name I use if I don’t want anyone to recognize me – just in case I screw up. But now when I go into the writing chat rooms, I use my full name because I want them to get to know me and my writing.

Once you’re in the chat room, check your screen. I knew I was in the right place, but I was an hour late and the party should’ve been in full swing yet no one was there. I saw the list of genres on the side with names that kept changing but didn’t understand what they were until someone else appeared in the room with me and said I was in the “common” room and to pick a private room to visit. I picked the one where the Steeple Hill party was and voila, all my efriends were there.

I’ve participated in 2 types of chat rooms – open and moderated. In an open chat room, anyone can join in, with several conversations going on at the same time. This can be confusing as comments keep scrolling up. I found it hard to keep track of my own words until I realized I can change my color. So, I change it to blue and always know where I am. Depending on the number of people in the chat room, an open chat can be quite hectic. However, there is the option in some chat rooms to pick another room and have a private conversation. This is how eharlequin separated the genres at their Open House.

Also, eharlequin has 2 or 3 editor pitches every year which are held in a chat room. If you’re one of the 5 picked to pitch, you enter the common room with your hostess and when the editor is ready to hear your pitch, you enter one of the private rooms. It’s just like at a conference except it’s done on the keyboard instead of face-to-face.

One last thing about an open chat – the topic can be anything. I was in The Wild Rose Press chat room last night and someone new entered. After a few mins, this person asked why everyone was talking about vampires and presidents instead of writing. The editors said we could talk writing if someone wants, and we did. But it’s good to remember that an open chat is just that – an open discussion.

A moderated chat, on the other hand, has a topic of discussion. When you enter this type of chat room, you don’t speak unless spoken to. Very rigid rules. For example, in The Wild Rose Press moderated chats, if you want to ask a question, you enter a “ ? ”. It takes time to type in your question so while you’re waiting for them to call on you, you get your question ready. Then, when they say your name, you send the question. Once your question is answered, you sit tight until you want to speak again or they question you. I only ‘speak’ once or twice in a moderated chat because they go around the room to chat with each person. I like this type of chat because it’s so efficient.

For those still wary, entering a chat room does not mean you’re joining a group unless it’s stated somewhere. And, proper etiquette similar to that of blogging must be observed, such as no profanity, no harassment, no ranting, etc.

There are lots of open chat rooms for/hosted by writers, publishers and authors. Also, writing groups like the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) have them. I would have liked to say the RWA has them but I can’t seem to log into the Member’s site tonight.

Here are a couple industry chat rooms you can check into although I can’t vouch for them: Preditors and Editors has a huge list of them)

I guess the point of this post is not to be afraid of chat rooms and use them with discretion. They can be an excellent way to ‘scope’ out a company or person you’re thinking of working with before you get in too deep. And they're a great source of information, even if it's only for research.

Do you participate in Chat Rooms? Do you have a favorite Chat Room you’d like to share with us?


Captain Hook said...

Very interesting, Anita. I haven't really thought about chatrooms as a way to get out there in the writing industry.

Might have to try that.

Karen said...

I have to say I've never been in a chatroom but I recently created a eharlequin profile with the intention of developing a presence there and perhaps participating in some chats. To date I haven't done much with it. Maybe during the summer months.

Great news about the partial request.

Great post today, Anita. I now know what to expect and how to conduct myself during a chat.

Silver James said...

*bwahaha* My spam word is "undedd"! Too funny. Anita, good luck with the partial. I've found the folks at Wild Rose to be very open and eager to help. I've sold one book to them and have two more on submission.

I don't often log into chat rooms. I should but because it is a great way to get your name out there in the industry, much the same way blogging in. I always use my pen name on the blogs I visit and in chat rooms. For those who want to give it a try, no one minds if you drop in and simply "listen" until you get used to things. And most places are good about explaining how things work if you feel lost and ask.

Great post today, Anita. Keep us posted on that partial!

Helena said...

Excellent post, Anita. You set such a good example. I'm interested in all the new ways of communicating, but I don't seem to have the level of 'git up and go' that you do. Like Karen, I've never been in a chatroom, but unlike her I have not even done the eharlequin profile thing. Something else to put on my list.

Do you find you spend a fair amount of time at it? I noticed you like the structured format best, but isn't it (potentially, at least) still a time sucker?

Thanks for yet another eye-opener.

Jana Richards said...

Hi Anita,
I've been in a couple of chat rooms, mostly as a promotional tool at a specific time where readers and other writers can join you and ask questions. And I belong to another yahoo group but I'm not a very good member because I don't go there that often. But your blog makes me think I should get over it and start hanging out in those places. Good luck with your partial. Talk about being in the right place at the right time!

Helena's question interests me as well. Do you find chat rooms something of a time sink?


Anita Mae Draper said...

Hey Sarah, there's lots of info out there if you need it. It just takes time to look for it. I'm glad if I showed you another window of writing. :)

Anita Mae Draper said...

Hey Karen, I just checked your profile at eharl and I'm your only friend! We'll have to do something about that because when I look at your page, all I see is a dozen pics of me and what I've been up to. Yech. You need more friends! ; )

I can honestly say I love the presence I've developed at eharl. I love it when I go to a forum after a week's absence and find someone saying, "Where's Anita Mae? she was just talking about this..." etc. I'm half a century old (double yech) and I've never had that in my life before - leastways when I knew about it.

Thanks, Karen. Glad to be of help.

Hayley E. Lavik said...

Thanks for the valuable info, Anita. I haven't participated in any chats, but I'd enjoy it if I could find the right groups. eHarlequin doesn't exactly offer me the same benefit though, so I'll have to do some snooping around.

Anita Mae Draper said...

Thanks Silver. You said the perfect thing - no one minds if you 'listen in' or lurk in a chat room. They'll say hi to you when you enter and then they'll carry on with their convo. I find at The Wild Rose Press, the first hour is a frenzy as people try to catch up on what friends are doing, but the majority of the people only stay for the first hour. I stick around as do some of the editors and that's when I really get my questions in. People come and go through out the time and I know 2 people who systematically come in near the end of the 1st hour because they can't take the first.

And yes, I lurked for my first few visits, only answering when they asked if I was a writer or a reader, etc.

Thanks again, Silver. Have a great day!

Anita Mae Draper said...

Thanks Helena, I guess I just like adventuring. 8)

Jana and Helena - you both ask if chat rooms are a time sink/sucker. Well, it depends. Here's my chat schedule:

- Tues nights from 7-9 pm in TWRP open chat

- 3rd Thurs of the month is very hectic as I have 2 chats onscreen from 6-7pm:
- TWRP Historical moderated chat
- eharl's Steeple Hill (I just glance at it once in awhile to see if anyone is talking to me)

at 7, the WRP one ends and I get to relax and enjoy my SH friends

- now that I rec'd this request for my contemporary ms, I'm going to join in the Contemporary WRP moderated chat tonight.

So, yes, that's hours spent chatting - but did you notice - it's all during prime time when the family is sitting there watching Dancing with the Stars or Americal Idol or whatever. I don't write when the kids are home anyway; I join in what they're doing and if they're just watching TV, I'm sitting there with my laptop reading the eharl forums, or on facebook, or surfing blogs. It's all industry related and that can never be wasted time.

Thanks, ladies.

Anita Mae Draper said...

Hi Hayley, you might want to check out that Preditors and Editors list then, because it's humongous! I even saw some some chats/forums if you're a lonely single writer. :)

The Wild Rose Press covers all genres but they all have to have Romance as the major element. In the open chat, they sometimes start talking about faeries, shape shifters, etc and they're asking for ideas for names and everyone joins in. I don't know the first thing about that world except for reading Lindsay McKenna's books but I can make up a name as good as the next gal. :)

Hayley E. Lavik said...

Anita, that IS an extensive list. I'll have to pour through them when I get some time.

The speculative chats at Wild Rose sound interesting. It might be nice to swing by a get a feel for things, although they definitely aren't the right publisher for my work.

Jana Richards said...

Hi Anita,
How do you go about joining The Wild Rose Press chat groups?


Hayley E. Lavik said...

Oh, I forgot to mention, Anita. For some reason when I clicked the link you gave me, it brought me to a different page than the chat list... yet when I searched for it myself, I'm pretty sure the URL was exactly the same. I'm not sure why, but thought I'd let you know.

Anita Mae Draper said...

I agree Hayley, the Wild Rose Press wouldn't be your ideal target.

The link wasn't working for me, either so I re-did it. Seems to be working now.

Thanks, Hayley.

Anita Mae Draper said...

Jana, to join the Wild Rose Press chat, you go here:

and click on "Enter the Chat Room"

which is in the middle of the page.

I think the first time I did it, I had to open a yahoo acct or something because I didn't have one.

So, if you want to sit in on tonight's chat which starts in about 30 mins, (7 pm Sask time), you might want to log in ahead of time.

It's a moderated chat tonight and it's always better to be early than late for this type.

MSN me if you have probs.

Anita Mae Draper said...

Hey Jana - there I was sitting in the chat room by myself and I realized this is the 1st Thurs of the month, not the 2nd.

So, the contemporary chat won't be until next Thurs. Again - sorry. I kept thinking Brenda was here on the first and that mixed me up. :0

Janet C. said...

Great post, Anita - very informative. I'll have to look into Wild Rose Press' chatrooms/schedules when my own schedule slows down a bit. And even though I'm a member at eHarl, I very rarely visit - and never in their chat.

As for RWA - I'm not sure about the parent organization, but RWA Online (which is a chapter and costs about $25 over and above your RWA membership) has a chat room. I've met some wonderful writers there (both pubbed and unpubbed). They hold chat parties for various occassions, but the chat room is always open. Most nights you can find 3 or 4 members in there. They use the room for 10 minute breaks at the top of the hour - the rest of the time is for writing. I've been a part of crying, celebration, brainstorming, plotting, encouraging, naming characters, and the list goes on. They are a great bunch of writers/friends.

And, of course, I love MSN to chat with my writer friends from SRW and Prairie Chicks :)

Molli said...

Hi Anita. Thanks for the ideas. I'm one who hasn't ever gone into a chat room, so it's all new to me, but you've given me something to think about.

Nice news about the partial request -- here's to you!

Anita Mae Draper said...

Hey Janet, I'm a member of RWA but when I tried to get into the mbr's area yesterday, it wasn't accepting my email address never mind my password. But, I've been having probs like this ever since I reloaded everything last week.

Thank you for letting us know about the online chapter's chat rooms. I've heard you talk about your chapter many times and always in a positive light.

Anita Mae Draper said...

Hey Molli, I'm glad I could introduce you to something new.

Thanks for the cheer. You actually reminded me of something:

Janet, I'm not sure if you remember last year, but you and Lesley critiqued the synopsis for MMM before I subbed it for the eharl pitch. So, thank you for taking the time to do that.

Janet C. said...

You're more than welcome - and you know I have my fingers and toes crossed for you and this partial.