While there are a lot of resources and applications out there to choose from, only a few will actually matter and make a difference in your writing career. Go to any bookstore and look at the reference section for a good read on writing, or just making money writing, and you’ll be immediately inundated with hundreds of books with promises of helping you write the next blockbuster. The ones I really get a kick out of are the ones that tout they can make someone a best seller in 30 days.
Are you ready for the ultimate secret of being an author? Read the best sellers of your genre and figure out what makes them tick and why certain stories work. What tone is used? What characterization? Critique the work; don’t just accept it as ‘this is a well written story.’ Why is it a well written story?
One of my personal favorites which I think all genres should have is On Writing Horror: A Handbook by the Horror Writers Association. In this book the writers themselves share their techniques. They also have put together a reading list of the ‘masters’ that you should read. Stephen King was an author that I didn’t respect due my own jealousy of his prolific abilities. After reading his acceptance speech for the Bram Stoker Award in this book I picked up his book On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, which can be used by any author as he talks about writing and not just horror. If your favorite author put out a book on how to write, then pick that up too.
When it comes to resources for writing as I said above there are too many too count and the truth is there’s really no one singular resource that is the ‘Holy Grail’. As far as books that will enable you to become a better writer that I recommend in no particular order of importance are the following:
- On Writing, Stephen King
- The Grammar Devotional: Daily Tips for Successful Writing from Grammar Girl, Mignon Fogarty
- Any Thesaurus and Dictionary (the larger the better)
- Writer’s Market (current year)
- The Elements of Style, Strunk and White
Blogs and Podcasts
I also recommend a few online resources. I won’t list all the blogs that I read, but check my previous posts for a few recommendations. I would recommend that you pick a couple writing blogs to read regularly, one of which had better be Inky Fresh Press which is in my honest opinion the one that tops them all. One other blog for fiction writers that I recommend is The Critters Workshop. This is an amazing site to get your work critiqued and see what’s getting published.
A couple of podcasts I recommend for writers depending on genre of taste are Pseudopod for horror/weird fiction and Escape Pod for sci-fi. Fantasy writers will enjoy Podcastle. For the craft of writing there really is none better than Mur Lafferty and I Should Be Writing.
Here’s where I will no doubt differ from the norm. I have tried several times to read the “trade” magazines within the realm of writing and have yet to be completely satisfied. Most have little content and are full of advertisements that have no appeal to me as a “starving” writer. So if you subscribe to them and get something out of them, more power to you. Personally, I get more out of the above books, sites, and podcasts–and they don’t cost me anything.
There are many applications for writers, here are the three I recommend:
Evernote is an application that gives you a way to capture, organize, and search for information and images. With this small download you can now have ‘post it’ notes in the cloud so to speak. Cloud computing is all the rage these days and you may even be using it without being aware. Google Docs which can be shared is the best example of cloud computing. Evernote however is like ‘post-it’ notes on steroids! Not only can you do the usual text note. Now with Evernote you can take web page clips, snap pictures, and much more. I should also mention that if you have a ‘Smartphone’ then it integrates with that as well.
Scrivener is a powerful writing application which up until recently was only available to Mac users. The windows version of Scrivener is still in its Beta release, and isn’t as complete as the Mac version, but it is available. I have just begun using it myself so really can’t honestly talk about it that much but it’s essentially designed to keep all your notes, plotlines, and other factors in a nice neat little file for you while you write. I think it’s well worth trying it out and seeing if it could work for you. You have several templates you could choose from, such as poetry, fiction, non-fiction, and even scriptwriting.
For anyone who does web research and or reads things on the web, Instapaper is the application for you. Instead of filing away bookmarks and not being able to find them later you can now hit a cool button in the web bar and it saves what you’re looking at for later review. Now if your like me and spend a lot of time researching on the web, then what could be better than less bookmarks and more reading when you feel like it without having to remember what you filed it under in the favorites? This program as all the above is completely free and well worth the effort to use.
What about you guys? Have any blog, book, or application recommendations you’d like to share?