We all know by now, the internet is full of helpful information for writers – and sometimes the reason it’s hard to find anything is simply because there is so much to wade through. Every now and then, it’s helpful to have a quick list of Useful Places To Go To Learn Things – but even those abound.
The BW blog is aimed primarily at those who write/work with words that are intended to be read, whether in a book, or a magazine, or online, or wherever. There are thousands of “how to write” blogs devoted to this cause, so this list of writing resources is a little different. The following are in no particular order but aim to address the different aspects of the writing life, and hopefully come at some of those aspects from a slightly different direction…
In which any explanation or description is superfluous to requirements: it’s all there in the title. This is indeed, a blog featuring daily writing tips. Less about story craft and more about “here’s how to use a comma”. It’s an easier-to-read style manual in bite-size chunks.
As an editor I am duty-bound to point out that some things will be more relevant to US writers than those from the UK or Australia.
2. Grammar Girl
Is it who or whom? Lay or lie? Why isn’t the dictionary written in plain English? And who decided to make the style manual so confusing? For those moments when you can’t get your words to lie flat and you find you’re wrestling with the slithery octopus that is the English language, Grammar Girl is the place for “quick and dirty tips” – straight-forward explanations of language and grammar rules, and simple tricks to help you remember them. A small caveat here once again that this is a US site and thus adheres to US-English rules, although the author generally references British-English differences.
3. John Finnemore: Forget What Did
As helpful as it is to see how other novelists approach their craft, sometimes examining story and the writing thereof via a different medium can make the lessons more interesting – not to mention highlight how universal some rules really are.
John Finnemore is a TV/radio writer and comedian. His blog is an excellent source of writing how-tos if you learn best by dissection. By this I mean he writes several popular radio comedies and he often returns to his blog, after an episode has aired, and explains in detail precisely how he went about crafting that episode – from rough notes to final recording. Obviously it helps if you have heard the radio shows in question,* but for writers (and editors) there is really no better way to learn than by example. Finnemore describes precisely why he may have made particular narrative choices, even going so far as to highlight story possibilities he explored during the draft process that ultimately failed to work – and explaining why this was the case. His willingness to analyse his own work so clearly and openly provides valuable insights into how stories work and proves the importance of knowing and understanding the rules.
4. UK Scriptwriters
This is a podcast,** although there is also a blog. It was created “for screenwriters by screenwriters” say the hosts, Danny Stack and Tim Clague.
Fie to that, I say. I mean, it is. It is chock-full of extremely useful information if you are a screenwriter, so if you are one: have at it – there’s loads of important information about film and TV. But even if you’re not, if you’re A Writer, or An Editor, this is still very useful. Stack and Clague are freelance writers by any other name. So their podcast is focused specifically at getting noticed and getting/finding work in the screenwriting business – but there’s not a single podcast that doesn’t include relevant information for you if you write stories and need to get noticed/published.
Again, it is about adapting advice to suit your needs. An episode focusing on how to pitch may be aimed at screenwriters who need to catch the attention of a room full of executives in under five minutes, but if you’ve written a novel you may well want to know how to do the same if you meet a publisher or agent at the next writers’ festival. Tips on how to craft a craft a screenplay are aimed at ensuring pacing is sound and actors and directors can easily interpret the action – but your manuscript needs to follow a lot of these same rules, and modern reading expectations have adapted to match what we expect from TV and film. The podcasters’ advice on how to survive the lonely day-to-day slog of running a freelance business and staying inspired is also valid no matter what you write.
Preditors & Editors/ Writer Beware/ Absolute Write
There’s so much information to absorb when you’re trying to get into publishing – how do you know who to trust? Luckily there are some great sites online where you can find out whether you’re being scammed by a shady agent who’s never made a sale in their life, or whether you have actually landed a golden contract with the Best Publisher In All The Land.
5. Preditors and Editors
A massive index of agents, editors, publishers and other services, complete with ratings, warnings and recommendations.
6. Writer Beware
Run by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, they state their mission as “…to track, expose, and raise awareness of the prevalence of fraud and other questionable activities in and around the publishing industry”. This is a good place to check for the latest scams catching unprepared writers.
7. Absolute Write Water Cooler
Questions about the industry? Need some support? Want the low-down on a particular publisher or writing competition? This is the place for you.
8. The Australian Writers Centre
Looking for a good round-up of articles, news stories, tips, interviews, podcasts and blog posts on the world of writing, books and publishing? The Australian Writers’ Centre Blog is a pretty good place to start.
9. Freelance Switch
This site is full of tips and advice on freelancing. It’s not specifically about writing, or indeed editing, but it is about how to start freelancing and how to work as a freelancer. There are tips on self-promotion, on networking, on finding work and much more.
Much of this is adaptable to your needs as a writer. Maybe you work as a freelance writer (or editor), in which case you have already embraced the #rockstarfreelancelifestyle and anything that’s not country-specific (such as legal or taxation rules) will be completely relevant to your interests. But even if writing is something you do after hours, many of these rules will apply. Because in order to make a success of your writing career, you need to get your work out there – whether it’s submitting to publications, agents and publishers, or promoting work that has already been published. Maybe you’re alone in your writing life and you need to find like minds… these tips for networking and social media and promotion all apply to the writer hiding in her garret as much as to the freelancer in his shiny home office.***
10. Life Hacker
Most writers I know, like most rockstar freelancers I know, tend to be really short on time. They point to that Douglas Adams quote about deadlines and laugh hysterically. And then they continue to procrastinate…
Life Hacker is great for this personality type. First of all, it gives you something to do while procrastinating because ooh, shiny website to read. But also, when you realise that oh-my-god-how-did-I-just-lose-an-hour-on-this, you can make that time up with all the snazzy shortcuts you learned from Life Hacker. Like how to automate your freelance quotes, or computer and internet shortcuts, or how to use social media efficiently.
What are your favourite online resources? Share them in the comments!
* Go ahead and do that – it’s worth it, I promise. This post will still be here later…
** Yes. I know. Note my cunning use of the word “resources” in the heading to cover a multitude of sins. I am multilingual like that. Or something.
*** “Shiny home office” = very much like a writing garret. Often involves a couch. Frequently includes pajamas. Shininess is relative and probably fleeting.