Finding Your Fiction Community Through Collectives
The rise of the creative collective on Substack.
My father-in-law enjoys model railroading. He reads about model trains, builds them, and runs them gleefully around tracks within intricate miniature environments. He also has a community centered around them. They naturally congregate around the activity, enjoy one another’s creations, share tips and tricks, and routinely discuss the hobby. This is easiest to do when you have a physical object that directs the attention of others. With writing, it’s a bit more complicated.
Writing can be a lonely affair. Even though the vision is ours alone to communicate, there’s still an underlying need to connect with other writers. Our fictional characters do keep us entertained, but community with real, breathing humans is also necessary. Just like with railroading hobbyists, we can gather to discuss the craft and trade experiences; however, it’s hard to share a story with another writer in the moment. It’s hard to congregate around words.
This is no different on Substack, where a large number of fiction writers gather. While we read one another’s stories, the community is formed around goals, aspirations, genre, activities, and even rejection. In many cases, this starts with an individual author, but progresses toward collectives, a group of like-minded people that hold a common passion. On Substack, as the platform ages, collectives will continue to form organically.
Fictionistas is a collective. The welcome statement is straightforward and broad. It is a community for fellow fiction writers on Substack. Whileand started Fictionistas, the activities and articles that drive the community are through the concerted effort of its volunteers — other writers. The two most recent examples of this involvement are The Great Substack Story Challenge and The Great Substack Prompt Celebration.
Those events help to foster smaller collectives that may even branch off to start their own communities. Many thanks to, and for spearheading those efforts. This is one sign of engaged community members and a successful strategy. It’s also the defining characteristic of a collective, which is co-ownership. It’s true that a Substack can only have a single owner, but the spirit of the collective is alive through various roles.
Another example of a collective is the(STSC). The STSC welcome statement says they are “A collective of essayists, storytellers, poets, photographers, painters, filmmakers all creating and collaborating to make the internet human again.” is the primary caretaker, but the STSC is flourishing through the active participation of its fellow collectivists who align with the mission.
A few collectives, likeand the , are even embracing a model closer to that of an online magazine or newspaper. The Post’s welcome statement says they are “A newsletter collective exploring how business will shape our future.” The Creātell Collective’s welcome statement says they are “A creator collective writing with the goal of developing greater curiosity, empathy, and connection.”
In both instances, the key is a shared vision and the willingness of the collective to work toward the vision becoming a reality. It’s typically an exploration and not necessarily a means to an end.
Other examples includeand the , run by and (me) respectively. The Storyletter aims to build an "...indie community where you can get published, grow your audience and read awesome stories…", while the Lunar Awards is "Recognizing and sharing the best fantasy and science fiction on Substack." The Storyletter acts more like a publisher, while the Lunar Awards acts more like a society. In both cases, the emphasis is on providing editorial oversight and a more refined platform to promote a collective of diverse authors.
Join a Collective
Joining a collective typically involves first connecting with existing authors on the platform. It’s certainly possible to stumble upon one in the wild through search and discovery, but most members already follow one another’s work. If you have an interest, it should begin with exploring the archives for the collective and its respective authors (if they have individual Substacks).
In general, before asking to join or participate in a collective, you should:
Understand their mission and how it aligns with your goals as a writer and a person. It should be a reciprocal relationship, not merely an opportunity for self-promotion.
Understand how you can uniquely contribute and help the collective to become successful.
Understand the commitment asked of the members in terms of contributions and participation in virtual gatherings.
Understand how your Substack or personal presence will be linked, either through recommendations or an author bio.
Understand who “owns” the articles posted to the collective Substack. Can they be re-published, or can you ask to have them taken down?
Understand how funds are distributed if it’s a collective with a paid option enabled.
Start a Collective
You may find existing collectives that you already enjoy have a full team of contributors, or it’s possible you want to form a community around a collective that has a different mission. Before starting a collective, you should:
Determine what you hope the Substack will accomplish. This may change or evolve as you talk to other authors.
Determine interest, not just for future members and contributors, but regarding your future subscriber’s interests.
Determine the posting frequency and whether or not you can meet those demands depending on the size of the collective.
Determine if you will have a paid option, and how you will communicate where the funds are distributed.
Determine the artistic direction. Will members be expected to provide art or will that be your responsibility?
Determine copyright implications. If an author asks you to remove an article or re-publish it, what will be the policy?
Contribute to Fictionistas
If you’re interested in giving back to a collective with an established and engaged community, Fictionistas has several opportunities. Send an email to email@example.com if you’re interested in:
Authoring a guest article about writing topics and publishing fiction.
Reviewing and (light) editing of guest articles.
Leading and contributing to an effort like The Great Substack Story Challenge or The Great Substack Prompt Challenge. Pitch us an idea!
Posting our monthly office hours discussion thread. It requires scheduling the post, coming up with a starter question, and commenting if available.
Providing artwork, graphics, or comics for posts.
Regardless of the direction you choose to establish your presence on Substack, a collective is a great opportunity for engaging with a community. Find your fiction people and you’ll find a wealth of knowledge and insights — possibly even long-lasting friendships.