Discord is a direct-messaging chat forum program with
tons of bells and whistles. Essentially, it’s a platform to chat with other users about presented
topics or form your own chat groups. It’s easy to sign up, easy to use, and
best of all, it’s free for chatting. Community is the key to this app, and the
writing community is there.

The program can be downloaded to your computer or
phone on either Mac/PC or Android/iPhone. Or you can use it on a browser screen
on either platform. Create
an account with your email, add a username and password, and you are good to
go. Discord firsts asks you if you wish to make your own server. Servers are
essentially big rooms that are divided up into more rooms. Usually, these
servers are differentiated by interest—gaming, writing, fandoms, whatever you
wish. Let’s skip this and look at channels.

Once you create a username and arrive in cyberspace
(man, I’m old), you can
search for interest groups, friends, or random topics. On your home screen, you
can click the “Explore Public Servers” button and see a huge list of servers to
try. Remember, you will chat either through text, voice, or video and voice. On
the left are topics to choose from: Gaming, Music, Education, Entertainment,
Science & Tech, and School Hubs. (School Hubs are new to the platform and
are for students.) You can also search topics such as Writing.

on a server of interest and view all the topics along the left side. Click on a
topic to read all the posts (or some posts, I’m not judging). Topics with new
posts are highlighted to find easily. To chat, click on the text field at the
bottom of the screen and type. Make your posts more fun with emojis, or click
on a reaction emoji to someone else’s comment. Stickers and GIFs can be added
as well.

And that will get you started. There’s more to Discord with the
voice chat and streaming with your camera. There are also bots on the servers
to help with automated tasks. My Albany NaNo group uses one to control our sprints,
so no one has to be on the timer and miss out.

How can authors use this forum as part of their
social media platform? Back to creating a server! If you create a server (a
bulletin board room full of just your topics), you can organize conversations
about your books, social media, research, spoiler groups… I’m getting ahead of myself here.

the plus button and create your server. If you don’t know where you’re going yet,
no worries. You can change things later. Give it a name and go. Discord puts
you in to your server. There are lists along the side to add channels or
threads within the server. Add one for fans, one for other writers, or one with
only pet pictures—whatever you need or want. Then invite other users. You can
directly invite people you are already friends with or send out a general
invite by adding the link on your social media, newsletter, or direct messages.
Add text channels by clicking the small + sign near the page named General.
These channels will be where your friends and fans can talk about books,
movies, pets, recipes, whatever you wish. Here’s the great thing, you don’t need
to make multiple servers. Channels can be changed to private and you can restrict
the number of messages. This lets you have channels that need permissions to
access. Maybe one channel is for authors only or spoilers for your latest
novels. That lets you keep a rein on what happens in your channels. Remember to
set up a “Rules for Use” channel, to keep everyone on the same page.

Why Discord and not a Facebook fan group? Facebook is
great for finding readers but tough to divide up groups for real conversation.
You can have threads on Facebook, but Discord can keep things organized,
private, and streamlined. Rather than creating a Spoiler group for each of your
books, you can have a spoiler channel to cover everything. Readers can explore
their areas and hit on multiple topics rather than scrolling through pages and
pages of Facebook comments.

My fourteen-year-old
informs me that this post is missing “sooooo very much, Mom.” Considering her
recommendations and expertise, I’ll post a Discord Part 2 next week.

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