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On Writing via Zoom Calls and Video Meets

By 14/05/2020writing
What Online Writing meets Have You Attended lately?

As I type this, I’m on a Zoom call. On mute and no video, of course, because I’m listening in on a writing seminar, and typing as I skip over the bits of writing advice not related to my genre of interest.

Three months ago, if you would have asked me, I’d have told you I didn’t know what Zoom was.  Ok, I exaggerate. I did take one non-writing class on it, last year.

In the last two months though, I’ve been on more writing-related google meets, skype calls, Instagram lives than I’ve been in my entire life. The pandemic has shut us in, but it has also opened up so many opportunities. I’ve watched fab authors do readings of their own books and of others’ books, writing and book festivals are going online with workshops by big names on zoom and google meet. I’d recommend signing up for talks (about writing and other topics) at the Hay Festival: it is online and free to register. Some events have sold out–of course the one with Margaret Atwood and Benedict Cumberbatch is no longer available.

I do not know quite what to make of it yet, because once we’re out of lockdown (I’m still hoping we’ll return to a situation where we will be able to freely mix around in crowded situations), more people might spend less time online. One thing is clear though–online meets have the potential for increasing our reach if we can get ourselves heard above the noise. Any live, even with famous actors, gets about a hundred or so in the audience. A mega event with big-name performers manages to attract a few thousand. Even a recent talk between Stephen King and John Grisham, had about a thousand viewers at any given time. All things considered though, this is a way to reach audiences with relatively less investment in terms of time, effort and resources.

At this time last year, I would have sweated pellets if asked to speak on video, but after a few months spent at events chatting about my book and the writing life, it has become easier. Not that I’m planning a writing podcast or a writing Youtube channel any time soon (let’s not get crazy here–I’m an absolute introvert in real life)–but the fact is that I’ve listened to more podcasts while cooped up, and that newer generations are more attuned to videos.

Ever since the lockdowns, I’ve attended book groups, writing critique groups, author talks, you name it.

Here are a few of my takeaways:

1. Figure out a quiet place for the reading/ listening. Use earphones.

2. If you’re giving a reading–do not drone on in a monotone.  Check out a few tips on how to read your writing. Make sure you’re livestream-ready.

3. When attending a writing event or seminar, make sure you mute your microphones if it is a two-way thing. Upload a profile picture–makes a better impression than the default ‘egg’ icon provided by the software.

4. When moderating, make sure you take all measures to keep the writing meeting private, secure, and follow the best practices for an online writing meet.

How many online writing meets have you been part of lately? What’s your advice for giving an online reading, or moderating an online writing meet?

Are you part of nay online or offline book groups? Founded any? What is the experience like? Do you think online book groups are similar to those offline?My debut literary crime novel,”You Beneath Your Skin,” published by the fab team at Simon and Schuster IN is available in India here.

Worldwide, here.

Reviews are appreciated–please get in touch if you’d like a review copy.

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Damyanti Biswas

Damyanti Biswas is the author of You Beneath Your Skin and numerous short stories that have been published in magazines and anthologies in the US, the UK, and Asia. She has been shortlisted for Best Small Fictions and Bath Novel Awards and is co-editor of the Forge Literary Magazine. Her next literary crime thriller, The Blue Bar, is represented by Lucienne Diver from The Knight Agency, and was published by Thomas & Mercer on January 1, 2023.

I appreciate comments, and I always visit back. If you're having trouble commenting, let me know via the contact form, or tweet me up @damyantig !

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  • Over the last two months, I’ve navigated various online platforms such as Zoom, Google Classroom and Google Duo.
    As we move forward with teaching, our school is working on a hybrid model which includes the Google Classroom. It’s been a wonderful learning experience.
    You are doing well with your live chats. I’ve seen quite a few of your facebook clips where you come across in a calm and confident manner.
    What I really want to do is listen to some good writing podcasts. A webinar sounds like a good idea too. The thing is, we can’t ignore these online events because the world is advancing in this direction.
    Stay safe, Damyanti.

  • I haven’t attended any online writing events yet but I think it is time I did! Zoom has proved very useful for my dog training course, my local social groups, and my reiki support group. I’m also beginning to explore podcasts, which I never found time for before.

  • Mark Murata says:

    I attended a writing group on Zoom. First time I ever used it.
    Getting tips on public reading is essential. Pauses are important.

  • toconnell88 says:

    The internet has certainly democratised society in lots of interesting ways. I shudder to think about how difficult this lockdown would be if we weren’t able to work, communicate and amuse ourselves online. It’s the one thing that has made all this tolerable and provided some semblance of normalcy, at least for me.

    I’ve had little cause to explore Zoom but these sound like some good tips 🙂

  • Modern Gypsy says:

    I love the explosion of free online events due to the pandemic, but my introverted self is also seriously overwhelmed with all of it!

  • dgkaye says:

    Great post Damyanti. You are really getting around the digital world. I’m like you, rather not be on the camera, but seriously thinking about doing some sort of videos. I’ve been on a few Zoom get togethers, but nothing serious as of yet. <3

  • Joy Pixley says:

    My writing group has switched over to online. We were trying to send critiques by email, but people didn’t like that much, so we are trying our first critique meetup by Zoom tonight. Luckily I have a lot of experience using Zoom for work meetings. Still, I’m a bit worried about how well it will work out. It’s more difficult to manage a conversation when you can’t use basic body language cues (which don’t come out well, even when you have video in Zoom). Well, it’s a nice group, so I’m hoping for the best!

  • I’m lucky that I haven’t had to attend any online meetings. I haven’t tried Zoom yet, though I’ve considered it. My daughter is teaching from home that way. It’s amazing how we’re all being forced to adapt. 🙂 I can’t wait until this is over and we can all communicate face to face again. And hug.
    Happy Sunday, Damyanti. Have a beautiful, safe week.

  • Parul Thakur says:

    I will be honest. I hadn’t heard of zoom until the lockdown and then after lockdown, I have only been on work meetings via zoom. Also, I would love to be a part of writing seminar. Never attended one and no idea how that would be.

  • Haven’t been on an online seminar till now but have been on many video calls.

  • Natasha says:

    Not yet been on an online writing seminar, but would love to. Give me a tip off for the next one. 🙂

  • hilarymb says:

    Hi Damyanti – I’ve seen lots around … and have been invited to a few … especially with groups I belong to here – but I’ve taken the decision not to get involved and just to get on with things that I need to do – so life is decluttered for the future. Once that’s done – then I’ll see where life takes me. I really don’t want to spend any more time in front of a screen – yet can definitely see the advantages and opportunities: they are there and are waiting to be found.

    Good luck … and the world is certainly changing for many … zoom et al – offer much – be it writing, art, theatre, science etc etc … all the best – Hilary

  • writershilpa says:

    Nope, I haven’t attended any writing seminars. I am taking a course on content writing online. I don’t know if this counts. 🙂

  • Rajlakshmi says:

    I wish I could attend these writing seminars. With a thousand listeners, I wonder how one gets heard. Even the chat section must be busy.

  • Yes Zoom kind of made a sudden appearance on everyone’s horizon lately and I have used it. It’s interesting to be able to see multiple faces on a call and interact with them. I found it to be a bit confusing when everyone was trying to join in conversation at the same time. I was reading that there are security problems with the site but not being into high tech myself don’t know if that’s true. If Google and FB can track you I guess it would not be surprising to learn there are privacy issues with Zoom too.

  • You are waaaaay ahead of me.
    I know of zoom, but have not yet played.
    And hope not to have to.
    I am both technically inept and a wimp.

  • Juneta says:

    I have been attending a lot., workshops, webinars, and class. I have something just about everyday of the week. I am enjoying it.

  • I’ve been on a couple so far. They work well on an iPad.
    I think people will still use them later this year, but hoping that after all of this, we learn how to appreciate the real world again.

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