There are some things that work plain better than others, that resonate with your needs better than others. When it comes to writing, I have tons of resources that I use on occasion, some that I use repeatedly and a few that I use all the time.
This is my Top Ten List of Writing Resources for the fall of 2016 (with some bonuses and honorary mentions).
1. Scribophile – Writer’s Workshop and Forum
The Scrib, as it’s popularly called, is a member-only (membership is free), password protected2, critique engine and writer’s forum. It’s based around the idea of give and take – if you critique other’s work, you get “Karma”, a virtual Scrib currency that allows you to do neat things, like post your own works for critique or give bonuses and gifts to other writers. So the whole system is self-enclosed: everyone contributes, everyone benefits.
Scribophile also hosts public or closed writing groups, and once you’ve managed to get a few crits below your belt, you’ll notice that joining groups will get you a better class of critiques, since people in groups will be more like your target audience, or share your writing interests.
And then there’s the Ubergroup, which is a member-only part of the member-only community.
I love the Ubergroup. It’s a place to find a closely knit critique group online. You join up with a few fellow writers who match your writing style and you commit to writing, posting and critiquing each other’s work every week. It’s a very fast and very reliable way to get quality crits, and one of the reasons I keep popping into the Scrib several times a day.
Oh, and the forums are addictive.
2. Codex – Speculative Fiction Writers’ Workshop
If you’re writing speculative fiction and have managed to get a piece published in a SFWA-qualifying market, landed an agent, or attended a recognized major writer’s workshop (such as Clarion or Odyssey), then Codex is the place to be.
Codex bills itself as the “hungry edge of speculative fiction”, a place where “neo-pro speculative fiction writers can shake the foundations and rattle the windows of the genres.” It sounds like so much boasting until you get in, and see the members list. A lot of brand name authors, Hugo and Nebula winners, and working professionals got their early boosts from Codex – and some of them are still there, paying forward by helping new writers.
The Codex community is great, supporting and commiserating when submissions sell or are rejected, sharing tips and tricks, helping out with expertise on both the writing and publishing fronts.
This is another place where I log in several times a day (which I probably shouldn’t, and spend that time writing instead).
Link: Codex Writer’s Workshop
3. Duotrope – Market List
Duotrope is a comprehensive market list for fiction writing markets. It’s got more than 4 000 different markets, and well over a hundred pro-paying markets. Most of these I wasn’t aware of when I joined (a whole bunch of which accept Speculative fiction). Some of these I’m still unaware about – until I input my story’s length, genre and theme, and are rewarded with a list of potential markets.
Duotrope is very easy to use, and it’s great for storing submission statistics. You can even export them to an Excel-file (which I, paranoid as I am, recommend doing on a regular basis) and run your own calculations on them.
And you get a neat “Congratulations! Your acceptance ratio is higher than the average for users who have submitted to the same markets.” note to boost your morale (or at least I do [/humble-brag]).
Duotrope is controversial though, since it decided to go from free to paid a couple of years back. Right now the cost is $50/year and, since it’s helped me sell for more than that, I consider this to be a good investment4.
4. Writing Excuses – Podcast
I love Writing Excuses. I’ve been following it for over six years, since season 3 (they’re in season 11 now). It’s a short (15 minutes per episode) podcast that focuses on the how of writing. Each episode Brandon Sanderson, Howard Tayler, Dan Wells and Mary Robinette Kowal discuss a particular problem, idea, or trick for writing better. They also end each episode with an assignment for you to tackle.
I usually binge-listen to Writing Excuses, consuming several episodes at once. This puts me in a huge “I need to write RIGHT NOW” mood. And it teaches me a lot of new tricks. So, for inspiration and education, Writing Excuses is my go-to source.
Writing Excuses has won a Parsec award and Hugo for Best Related Work. It’s also been on the Writer’s Digest 101 Best Websites for Writers for a couple of years now.
Try this: Character Sliders
Link: Writing Excuses
5. Getting Past Being Joe Blow Neopro – Article
How could a single article get on a “Best of”-list? Especially an article that is only available as a podcast with annoying jingles?
Easy: this is the single most motivating and informative piece I’ve encountered the entire year. I’ve listened to it straight through three times, and listened to individual parts at need dozens of times (it’s broken up into 6 thematic parts).
Based on an article by SFF New York Times Bestselling writer Tobias S Buckell, Joe Blow NeoPro is 1 hour and 17 minutes of absolute gold when it comes to being a new-professional writer. It covers everything from how to handle rejection, to being professional, to keeping up your writing, to planning and realizing your career. Which Buckell has done, going from a neo-pro in 2008, when this article was first published, to being a pro with novels and over 50 published short stories translated into 17 languages.
Yeah, it’s good. Really, really good. Go listen to it.
6. TheMostDangerousWritingApp.com – Software
Some people swear by Write or Die. I’ve tried it but found that it had too many ways to squirm out of writing. It wasn’t painful enough.
Oh, and don’t stop writing, because if you do, everything you’ve written up to that point goes the way of the Dodo.
Harsh, I know. Getting all of your work deleted because you answered the phone. But it does give you motivation to not answer the phone. To focus fully on writing. And you have to write. Don’t think about each individual word, think about the story, where it’s going.
Usually I do a 5 or 10 minute stint. 10 minutes yields me about 700 words with TMDWA. Yeah, it happens that I start and all I can write is “this is shit” for two minutes. But after those two minutes something comes flowing. And if I hit a problem in the middle I can write junk for a minute before things get moving again. Or insert a placeholder in Swedish if I can’t figure out the word in English. Or a note to do some research. But the key point is that the story keeps flowing.
The story keeps flowing. And that’s worth all the junk in the world.
Besides, you can always edit out the junk afterward.
7. The Submission Grinder – Market List
Let me state up front that The Submission Grinder was created in response to Duotrope going paid. The Grinder promises to be free forever (although they do accept donations), and it’s got functions that Duotrope doesn’t have – you can see that the Grinder is coded by a working writer.
For example, you can see the response statistics of a market, and see stories that the market has accepted, rejected, and which are still pending. So if your story is pending after a lot of other stories have already been rejected, you can surmise that it’s still being considered, perhaps gone on to the next reading.
It’s rejectomancy5 on a whole new level. It’s lovely. If I’d have my druthers I’d ruther start with the Grinder than Duotrope.
But I’m already invested in Duotrope, with all my statistics there. And it’s more polished. And it’s got more markets (4 k+ vs. 1.5 k+). But I can see a day when I’ll bite the bullet and switch. Because unless Duotrope does something big, the Submission Grinder will overtake it in a year or two. And it’s free.
Link: The Submission Grinder
8. Evernote, Dropbox & CrashPlan – Software
Evernote is a note-taking app. It allows me to write across multiple platforms. So I can pull up my phone and write a story on it, then have it ready on my computer when I get home. It’s easy, it’s efficient, and it’s free (although I do have the pro/paid for account to get the extra features).
DropBox – well, file syncing across multiple platforms. It does what Evernote doesn’t do: keeps my files, and manuscripts, synched across all my computers. And it’s lightning fast, and I haven’t caught it messing up the syncing, which I have with Evernote6.
And CrashPlan takes my Evernote database, and my DropBox files, and backs them up, in every version, forever, to the cloud. In real time. As I write this. The downside is that it takes effort to restore the files. But since you don’t always know that you have a problem until you try to use a file two years later, it’s very, very good to have an easy and convenient solution.
9. The Story Grid Podcast – Podcast
I just recently started listening to this, and the fact that it makes it onto my top-ten list says something. And I’ve bought the companion book (or rather the podcast is a companion to the book, which is available as a series of blog posts for free, if you feel cheap).
In the Story Grid Podcast, Tim Grahl, self proclaimed “struggling writer”, gets help from Shawn Coyne, editor and author of the Story Grid blog/book, to iron out his problems.
I like the way they can talk through problems, and how I can relate to the problems and the solutions. They are also chummy, and got great chemistry and voice. The downside is that they chat a bit much, and flow out into other topics, so that each episode is about an hour long.
That’s why the Story Grid Podcast is down here, while Writing Excuses is up on #4. But it’s still something I listen to regularly.
Link: The Story Grid Podcast
10. Scrivener – Software
Talk to any group of writers and you’re bound to hear about Scrivener. It’s a writing software for writers, by writers.
Scrivener is smooth, polished, and has a metric ton of features. Want virtual post-its on a corkboard? You got it. Want a list of scenes with their lengths? You got it. Want to know which character is in which chapter? Yep, you got it.
It’s an insanely powerful writing platform, to the point of formatting your manuscript for the ebook reader of your choice, or uploading to Amazon/CreateSpace, completely automatically.
Except that you need to know how to do it.
This kept me from using Scrivener for years. I’d grab the trial version, look at it, and go “WTF?” But this spring I decided to bite the bullet and sit down and learn this beast.
It was a lot easier than I thought. And there area tons of great tutorials online.
If you decide to get Scrivener, factor in two hours to go through the included tutorial. That will give you enough background to start using it. You’ll need to refer back to it from time to time – there’s a ton of features – but with just the tutorial you’ll have come a long way to becoming a Scrivener pro.
Yeah, I highly recommend it, especially if you’re writing longer works.
And, as with any top list, there are some things that came close, but not close enough. And here they are, in no particular order:
The Artist’s Way – Book
This is by far my favorite inspirational work for all kinds of writing. It’s a 12-week course that will guide you from being a terrified wreck to actually creating and feeling confident about it. I did the entire “workshop” when I started out, and once more after I hit a long dry spell, and it enabled me to be creative. And I return to it from time to time.
Link: The Artist’s Way
Hardcore History – Podcast
A really fun podcast by a skilled caster and history nerd Dan Carlin. It’s one I discovered relatively recently but it’s been one of my most listened to podcasts these past two months. Carlin is able to combine credibility, knowledge and drama into one hell of a package.
Link: Hardcore History
Daily Science Fiction – Free Fiction
I love Daily Science Fiction, and not just because I’ve been published there, twice, and gotten paid. Daily SF is a free fiction website, and mailing list, that delivers a SF flash every workday. It’s a great source of inspiration, and a way to keep up with what others are writing. Highly recommended!
Link: Daily Science Fiction
The Seventh Sanctum – Writing Prompts
One of my favorite random inspiration generation sites, the Seventh Sanctum hosts an imperial ton of writing prompt generators, from Characters and Setting to Combat and Ice Cream7.
Link: The Seventh Sanctum
Barking up the Wrong Tree – Productivity Blog
Productivity tips based on Eric Barker’s reading of current research. It’s well worth it, although it can become a time sink as there’s always something new an interesting linked to from the blog.
Wait But Why – Science (mostly) Blog
Lovely stick-figure-illustrated blog about, well, science and stuff. It’s fun to read, with new content every two weeks or so, and it manages to both teach and inspire at the same time. Check out their 2 post series on the Artificial Intelligence Revolution (it’s scary reading). http://waitbutwhy.com/2015/01/artificial-intelligence-revolution-1.html
Link: Wait But Why?
Forward Motion – Writing Community
When I started out writing, Forward Motion was the first writer’s community I joined. I’ve since moved on, but if you’re looking for a small, friendly community with a world class, yearly novel-writing course, then FM is for you.
Link: Forward Motion
Writing into the Dark – Book
Dean Wesley Smith’s book about how to be a pantser (which I am), and, most importantly, how to succeed as a writer without using outlines.
Here’s my full review of Writing into the Dark
Author Earnings – Writing Business Website
This is the place I go to when I feel like there’s no way I’ll ever make it as a writer. Guess what, these guys/gals prove that I have a fair shot at doing that.
Author Earnings uses an automated approach to scrape Amazon data and then collates the sales figures for millions of books into revenues based on whether you’re self-published, trad-published, when you’re published, what you published etc. And they show that a lot more writers manage to make a living out of writing that you might think.
Link: Author Earnings
Buffer – Social Media Platform
Yeah, every writer should have a platform. And it takes time. But with Buffer I can spread my Tweets/Posts around and it takes me about one hour per week. I’ll write up my method someday, but for now, here’s the link. Also, try combining Buffer with Feedly, it’s worth it.
That’s it, Folks!
That’s it folks, the entire list. I’m happy you made it this far. Let me know of your favorite writing resources in the comments.
- I used Critters for years, it’s a very good group and I still like it – but I love Scrib
- Meaning that the stuff you post won’t be considered published – you can get it critiqued by a wide variety of people and still retain “first rights”.
- Because I’m trained in the Japanese tradition and Google-Jitsu is clearly superior to Google-Fu
- But YMMV.
- A term of pro writers where they try to divine how well their submissions are doing by comparing rejection statistics. I learned that on Codex.
- And that’s a completely different story – but if you’re synching files, use DropBox, it’s way more dependable
- Don’t use that one when hungry…