In days long gone, writers gathered in damp church halls and reading rooms to hone their words. Rivalries formed and enemies were made, but writing circles helped new writers learn their craft. With the internet writers found it easier to track down fellow wordsmiths. Peer review sites blossomed. Authors posted their work online and asked for feedback.

Peer review sites came and went. Authonomy and Litopia were early examples. The BookShed itself started as a writing community. But, as a rule of thumb, peer review sites have short shelf lives.

Almost without exception, user communities implode when wronged writers cry foul, infighting takes over and site owners lose interest (or funding). The few talented writers jump ship, and leave behind the sort of digital tumbleweed that now rolls through sites like YouWriteOn.

As enthusiastic amateurs dropped out, start-ups stepped in. These days, the better writing communities are big business. This page lists the five current big name sites –¬† beware, you will still find strange souls who spend more time on message boards than actually writing.

Wattpad is the world’s largest reading and writing online community, it first launched in 2006. Users post articles, stories, fan fiction, and poems and ask for feedback. It is used by both new and published writers. Users are able to comment and ‘like’ stories or join groups associated with the website. Around half of the users are US based and there are a large number of readers in the Philippines. So far, over 5 million stories have been uploaded to Wattpad.

Scriggler is a writing, blogging and debating platform which not only provides a platform for writers to showcase their work, but also helps them test their work. Writers can use the platform to publish their work and then analyse the type of audience they are attracting. Scriggler provides writers with detailed stats on audience interaction and demographics, thereby helping them get a better insight into how their writing is being received. A smaller user base than Wattpad means stuff isn’t lost in the sea of submissions. Scriggler also emails a selected publication of the day to its members – a great way to reach readers.

WEBook might look a bit old fashioned, but it claims to be ‘the leading place on the web for the discovery of new, talented writers’. That may be a somewhat grand boast, but the site brings together writers, readers, and literary agents. The WEbook community reads and rates member-submitted work. WEbook actively helps writers find agents through a service that screens query letters and allows writers to choose agents from the list of those interested in specific genres.

Booksie allows users to post articles, short stories, novels, poems and screenplays. Booksie offers tools (including a blog platform) to connect with your audience. There is a spin-off site for writers of Erotica. Its only issue tends to be that it does have a fair number of trolls and it veers more towards the self-important end of the user scale that has caused other sites to close.

Scribophile uses a ‘karma’ system. Before you can post your work, you must earn points either by critiquing someone else’s work, or when other members like your critiques. The longer your critique, the more karma you earn to spend when you post your own work.It also runs writing contests and offers lots of advice and other resources.

Writing community sites tend to divide writers who worry that posting online leaves their work open to theft. Given it’s hard enough for talented, edited, published writers to make money from words, this feels somewhat¬† fanciful. In over ten years, there have been few high profile cases of proven plagiarism.

– Read related: Copyleaks.com Plagiarism Checker For Students.

A more genuine concern is whether posting work online is the same as having it ‘published’. Technically it is and this may mean an automatic disqualification from some writing competitions. Always check the terms and conditions.