Throughout middle school and high school, I was an avid contributor to and reader of numerous social writing websites. My ambition then was mostly to write about my favorite TV show, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and some original short stories—emphasis on short.

Whatever I wrote, though, I aimed to write well and make enjoyable for anyone who happened to stumble across it online. That’s the thing with online writing communities: Anyone around the world is a potential reader, and that creates a broad and diverse readership.

This is what drew me to publish my work online. Before I discovered these sites, I would bombard my friends with stories and poems I had written, only to receive the same old song and dance: “This is great, but I really have no feedback. Good job, Elizabeth!” While these comments were encouraging, they lacked the critique I longed for as a growing writer.

Thankfully, my family had the internet available, and I soon discovered the vast world of online social reading and writing communities. On sites like Wattpad, FictionPress, and Figment I could read other writer’s work, post my own work, and receive comments and critiques on my writing from other aspiring authors or passionate readers around the world. These communities gave me new inspiration to write and connected me with people who shared my same passions.

To narrow it down, there are two common types of online writing communities one can participate in: fanfiction and original fiction. The former is made of stories written by fans of a TV show, movie, book or any form of story; those fans write continuations of said story. The latter is just the opposite; as the name implies, it consists of original stories with original characters and plot lines. Both forms are accepted and celebrated online, allowing writers either the structure of working with pre-established ideas or the opportunity to publish entirely new worlds and adventures of their own creation.

Besides connecting readers and writers around the world, the aforementioned communities also allow budding writers a place to publish their works when they have nowhere else to turn. Though such sites cater to any and all writers, they especially help younger, aspiring writers come out of their shells and acquire confidence and experience with their writing. The concept has become so popular in recent years that Candice Faktor, general manager of Wattpad, has speculated that generations Y and Z may become “the most literate generation.” The claim is not without support: Wattpad‘s users spent 41 billion minutes on the site in 2013.

These online communities also boast various contests and challenges to encourage writers and give them jumping-off points for new story ideas. Wattpad, for example, is currently hosting the Young Writers Prize, the winner of which is promised a publishing contract with Hot Key Books in addition to £10,000. Also via Wattpad, authors of young adult (YA) fiction are hosting the Common Room Teen Mentoring Contest, pairing 15 YA writers with 15 teenage authors to mentor and encourage them and their literary goals.

Though some contests center around young writers, there are sites for anyone of any age to contribute to and enjoy. It’s all about collaboration and promotion, and in the grand scheme of things, getting more people to read and write!

Did You Know?

Amazon has a publishing platform called Kindle Worlds that allows fanfiction writers to publish their works and earn profits. The catch? The program only applies to certain “Worlds,” meaning the fanfiction can only apply to movies, books, TV shows, and other media whose rightsholders have agreed to participate. The list includes former CW show Gossip Girl, the ABC Family original TV series Pretty Little Liars and Neal Stephenson‘s Foreworld Saga. Writers receive a royalty based on their sales numbers; however, they also give Amazon and the rightsholder (called the World Licensor in the licensing agreement) the right to incorporate any new ideas into their own works.

Kindle Worlds currently has about 650 different ebooks available for purchase, ranging in price from $0.99 to $3.99.