If you’re looking to network with fellow authors, look no further than the social media platforms you visit every day. Facebook may be a great means of stalking your exes and checking up on your old high school nemesis, but it also plays host to a few phenomenal writing communities. The best of the bunch, in our opinion, is Fiction Writing: a general writing group that counts bestselling authors and novice writers among its 30,000 members.

What makes Fiction Writing so special is the supportive, drama-free environment it nurtures. Writers of every level of expertise are welcome, and you’re encouraged to ask questions and seek advice about anything from sentence structure to finding an agent. The group also publishes a short story anthology every year.

We were lucky enough to chat with Brian Paone, the founder and head admin of the group, about what makes it tick.

Q&A with Brian Paone from Fiction Writing

Author Secret: Tell us a little about the Fiction Writing group. How did it get started, and what’s your involvement with it?

Brian Paone: I founded Fiction Writing in August 2015 after I had been the head admin of another group called Writing Fiction. The founder of that group, who disappeared for a while, leaving me to run the group, returned and didn’t like some of the changes I had made. I had grown the group’s membership from 300 when I took over to almost 3,000. But he still thought I was doing it wrong, so I left the group and decided to start my own writing group. And here we are, with 30,000 members.

AS: What are some of the unique features or quirks of the group?

BP: We have our very own Book of the Month Club, where the books we select are member-written only. Every day has a theme: Marketing Monday, Timely Tip Tuesday, Fiction Friday, Social Media Saturday (you get the hint), and we also publish a yearly anthology called the ‘Of Words’ series, where every story in the anthology comes exclusively from group members. The books are traditionally published through Scout Media and each one has a different theme. The 4th volume in the series will be out early 2018. The responses have been so overwhelming that we have decided to start releasing 2 anthologies a year, starting next year—one in the spring and one in the fall.

AS: Membership currently stands at just over 30,000 people, and the group is growing at a phenomenal rate. How do you manage all that activity? Give us a “behind-the-scenes” glimpse!

BP: Honestly, I have my admin and two moderators, and they do an amazing job. I am also very hands on with the group, and I spend quite a bit of my time making sure there is no bad advice disseminated and everyone is being constructive and not offensive. I’d like to think the exponential rate we are growing is due to positive word of mouth from existing members telling their other writing friends what type of group we are.

AS: One of the most impressive things about the group is how positive the general culture is amongst the members – no small feat, considering the size of the group. How do you manage to cultivate a largely drama-free platform?

BP: I don’t tolerate or pussyfoot around when someone is being degrading or offensive for the sake of riling someone up. We have too many members for me to ____ a member. So you don’t get too many second chances if you’re being disruptive. Members are fantastic at tagging me or my admins if it looks like another member is crossing any common courtesy lines. We encourage opinions, but I don’t tolerate bullies or blatant hate-speak.

AS: Tell us about the “Of Words” anthologies.

BP: They are an annual anthology published by Scout Media in paperback and eBook worldwide. The stories are made up exclusively by Fiction Writing members. Each book is themed but never genre based. The 4th book is coming out in Spring 2018, which is called “A Contract of Words” (each story must involve a contract of some sort). Our previous editions have been “A Matter of Words” (2015, where there was no theme; sky was the limit), “A Journey of Words” (2016, where each story had to involve a journey), and “A Haunting of Words” (2017, where each story had to involve a haunting of some kind. The interesting thing about this one is we had less horror than anything else. There were many romance-haunting stories etc). Next year we are going to be doing 2 books.

AS: In your opinion, what makes the Fiction Writing group so special? 

BP: The vast diversity of authors we have who are active in the group. We have everyone from NY Times Best Selling authors, to authors who have had their books adapted into films, to traditionally published authors, to self-published authors, to writers who have written a plethora of work but never published, to the first-time novice writer just starting out on their journey. And in the group, there is no status pecking order. No one is treated better than anyone else.

AS: You’re a published author, a police officer, the vocalist for four bands, the owner of a publishing company, a professional copy-editor, a husband and father of four. How did you learn to survive without sleeping?

BP: Sleep is for the weak. I also don’t let distractions get in my way. I have eliminated binge watching mindless television and I have learned not to procrastinate. I maximize every hour I’m awake to be working on SOMETHING productive: editing a client’s manuscript, working on my own next novel, doing administrative business for the publishing company, checking through FW etc.

AS: What do you think it takes to make it as an author these days?

BP: Thick skin, perseverance, a good team of support (spouse, editor, graphic designer… contrary to popular belief, writing a novel is not a one-man showTwitter ), and a good grasp on marketing and promotion.

Thank you once again to Brian for chatting to us about the group, and for playing host to such a fantastic community for writers everywhere!

To learn more about Brian and his work, visit his website at www.BrianPaone.com or check out his Amazon author page.

For more great online writing communities, check out our Academy post, 5 online writing communities for fiction authors.