Archive for the ‘Resources for Writing’ Category

Sitting down with a literary agent over a cappuccino…

April 11th, 2014 | Agents, Career, Current Affairs, Marketing and Platforms, Proposals, Publishing, Questions from Beginners, Resources for Writing, The Business of Writing, Trends | 16 Comments

So I happen to be sitting at Cafe Greco in North Beach (the Italian section of downtown San Francisco), and thought this was the perfect place to suggest authors sit down to have a cappuccino and talk. This month we’re just inviting authors to send the question they’ve always wanted to ask a literary agent, if only they could be face to face. I’ve been sent a bunch of questions, and I’m trying to get to each of them…

I know many agents are looking for an author to have a big “platform.” What does a big platform look like to you?

A platform is a number. You speak? How many people do you speak to over the course of a year? You write a column? What’s your readership? You’re on radio? What’s your listenership? You blog? How many hits do you get? You do a column? How many people read your work? You belong to organizations? How many people are you connected to? All of those are numbers — just add up the numbers, and you’ll know how big your platform is. The bigger the number, the happier a publisher is going to be. More important is how many people you actually have some sort of relationship with — that is, how many of those folks do you speak to or consider an acquaintance? Can you suggest what percentage might actually purchase a book? A small publisher may be happy with a platform of ten to twenty thousand. A medium sized published may be looking for a platform that is at least forty to sixty thousand. A large publisher may not be all that interested if your platform is less than 100,000 — possibly not interested if your platform is less than 250,000, depending on the project.

Is it pointless to seek publication before launching a blog? I have substantial Facebook and growing Twitter followings, but haven’t launched my blog yet.

I’m not sure a blog is as vital as it was a few years ago. Some authors have built a platform using Twitter, Pinterest, and Facebook. Others have really used GoodReads and Amazon in lieu of a blog. I think the important things to consider are (1) the numbers, (2) the connection they have with you, and (3) the content you’re sharing. Here’s what I mean — if you have a bunch of friends on Facebook because you’ve shared a lot of conservative political flamethrower stuff, but you’re writing a contemporary romantic suspense, the content doesn’t connect with the book’s expected readership. You may or may not need a blog, but the important thing with a blog these days is to get noticed, just like in publishing a book. There are currently roughly 20 million blogs available… how is yours going to grow a readership?

I’ve been asked to write a column for an online magazine which sounds good, but they refuse to tell writers what their numbers look like. Also, they pay, but they demand all rights. As an agent, do you think I should participate?

That depends on your expectations. If you need the money, a paid writing gig like this is great. As for demanding rights, lots of magazines these days are moving that direction — you have to be at peace with the fact you are basically using this as a work-for-hire. You could do some research on third party sites to find out some basic numbers for the magazine and make an educated guess at the numbers they’re hitting.

Do writers these days write specifically for the ebook market, or are they really writing for a print market and settling for a digital book?

Love the question, because for all the excitement about dedicated e-book authors, I find most writers are still hoping to land in print. Not all, certainly, but most. Why? Because traditionally that’s where success has come (and yes, that may be changing), and because legacy publishers can get authors into stores around the country. So it’s really a “reach” argument — that legacy publishers offer greater reach. That said, we’re in an era of revolution, and there are plenty of writers who have basically given up on the notion of working with a legacy publisher, and have become focused on creating their own ebooks and taking them to market via Amazon, Nook, and the iBookstore.

I heard you say at a conference that the one thing you look for most in a book proposal is “voice.” What are you really looking for when you say you want to see a strong voice in a proposal?

Voice is personality on the page. I love seeing proposals that offer strong personalities. Too many of the proposals I see are flat — they all sound the same, and could have been written by anyone. So I love seeing a project come in that seems different — big, unique, funny or insightful, with words/grammar/style/thought patterns that reveal your unique personality. If you read writers with great, unique voice, you just don’t confuse them with other writers. Great ideas come and go, but great voice lasts a long time. I see lots of ideas each month; I see very little great voice. And if you’re really interested in this topic, go to Amazon and pick up a copy of Les Edgerton’s FINDING YOUR VOICE. A wonderful book to help beginning writers figure out how to get their personality onto the page.

Do you still teach “proposal” workshops? Does a proposal still matter in these days of self-publishing one’s ebooks?

I do still teach my one-day proposal workshop. (Commercial: If your writing group or regional conference is looking for a cost-effective one-day seminar, you should get in touch.) Proposals continue to be vital for nonfiction books, and the way we usually start the conversation with fiction. I asked a senior editor at a Big Six publishing house about this, and she wrote me back to say, “One thing I think aspiring writers need to know about proposals is that they function as a business plan for a book. That is, they demonstrate why and how a project will be viable because of the idea, the author platform, and the market environment. In nonfiction, as you know, publishing a viable book is not so much about writing as about what will happen (either because of the author or the publisher) in the market to get people to buy it. Most people don’t want to hear that because they want to believe it’s all about writing, but that is very far from the truth these days. New writers need to understand this basic fact and see the proposal as an opportunity, not a chore to be gotten past.” A great proposal can help you find success, in my view. It won’t overcome a lousy idea, but it will certainly help you sell a good idea.

Who puts a manuscript or new book into the running for awards and contests? Does the author seek them out herself and submit her entries? Does the publisher submit completed manuscripts automatically to certain contests? Would an agent make recommendations for contests and/or award to go after?

Most major writing awards are submitted by publishers. Mid-level awards can be submitted by publisher or author. Most smaller writing awards are submitted by author. These usually cost money. And yes, in almost every case the entire completed manuscript is sent (though I know of no publisher who “automatically” submits to contests). An agent will certainly make recommendations for contests and awards, and I encourage authors to have that discussion with their agent. Publishers tend to like manuscripts that proved themselves by winning contests.

I’m working on a non-fiction manuscript for which I have some personal experience, but I don’t really have the full technical expertise to completely address the topic. Would an agent consider my proposal and connect me with an expert in the field? Or do I need to do the legwork myself to find the expert?

I have occasionally connected a writer and an expert, but it’s rare… Much more commonly I’ll just say to the writer, “You know, this would be a much stronger idea if you were to partner with an expert in the field.” An example: I once did a healthy lifestyle book, and encouraged the author to connect with a nutritionist and exercise physiologist, since her personal story was great, but I felt publishers were going to insist on some sort of recognized expertise.

I notice you do a bunch of religious/inspirational fiction. Do you also do fiction for the wider market?

I’ve received this question a hundred times… YES, take a look at my list. I do Christian fiction AND lots of general market fiction. So do Sandra, Amanda, Erin, and Holly, the other agents at MacLit.

I did a book with a smaller publishing house earlier this year, but the information on Amazon is incorrect. Try as I might, I can’t seem to get them to fix it. What do I do?

Talk to someone in the marketing department at your publishing company, tell them EXACTLY what is incorrect and EXACTLY what you would like it to say. Be clear, be polite, don’t blame, and don’t act like your life depends on changing this information. Amazon sometimes gets this stuff wrong, and publishers often try to fix it. I ran this question by a senior editor at a large house, and she replied: “Amazon is an automated system, at least with us, but I suspect with most other publishers. Amazon’s system goes into our system and pulls the data it wants when it wants it and then puts it up on the site, often as long as 4-6 months in advance. That’s why the data are often wrong. Authors get upset when they see incorrect data and copy but that’s because Amazon is pulling the early stuff before it gets polished. Pre-orders are good, but this is what comes of it. And this is Amazon’s doing, for their own mysterious and not-so-mysterious purposes.”

Okay — got a question you’ve always wanted to sit down and ask a literary agent in some face to face setting? Send it my way. Meanwhile, I’ll be here, eyeing the cannoli and ricciarellis. Ciao!

What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever received?

March 28th, 2014 | Deep Thoughts, Questions from Beginners, Quick Tips, Resources for Writing, The Writing Craft | 34 Comments

So it’s spring break for most people. You might be heading out of town, or driving to the beach, or trying to find a place to relax and dive into that new book you bought. I’m going the same thing — well… I live at the beach, so I’m not heading there, but I am trying to ditch the crowds find some quiet so I can read today. I have a long list of projects I want to get caught up on, so instead of doing emails and taking phone calls, I’m going to try and get away and just read for a while.

And that, of course, means I don’t think I’ll take the time to create a new blog post. Instead, I’ll let you YOU create it. One simple question: What is the best writing advice you’ve ever received?

It might be something about craft, or a trick you learned, something about writing quickly or leaving writer’s block behind. It could be advice on creating characters, or raising the stakes, or leaving people with a memorable lesson. Whether you write fiction or nonfiction, you’ve no doubt heard (or read) some great bit of wisdom that you took to heart and you noticed it changed your work. Share it with us. Just click on the “comment” bar below and offer the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever received. You’re welcome to give us context, and tell who said it and what the circumstances were, if you want to — but don’t feel you HAVE to. You’re welcome to just offer one sentence with the advice you’ve got.

I do this once each year or so, and I have gleaned some wonderful tips from people over the years. Would love to hear what you have to share with your fellow writers. What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever received?

How to Enter a Writing Contest the Right Way

February 5th, 2014 | Resources for Writing | 3 Comments

Tagg6Here’s the thing with writing contests—they’re kind of like gas station pizza: either an incredibly satisfying experience…or HORRIFYING. And sometimes, you just don’t know which it’s gonna be until it’s all over and you’re smiling in cheesy happiness or tossing your cookies…which in this case would be more like tossing your pepperoni.

[Rambling. Revert course]

So writing contests.

Though I’m no contest guru, I do think we can take our contest experience to a much happier place when we enter the right way…as opposed to the way that may drive you and quite possibly your loved ones up to the brink of batty.

(Some signs that you may be entering the latter way: You’ve got a countdown app on your phone noting the days and hours until the date finalists are to be announced. You’re sure if you DO final, it means you will be published in the next couple months. You’re sure if you DON’T final, God is telling you to stop writing. In short, you slip into obsessed territory. Please don’t go there.)

So here are my suggestions for entering a contest the right way:

1) Enter the contests that give GOOD feedback.

Do you homework about the contest you’re considering. Who are the judges? Talk to past entrants. Do the judges do more than stick a number on a page? Good. Do they offer feedback beyond, “Hated your character’s first name.”? Good. These are the contests you want to enter.

2) And then enter FOR the feedback.

This is the thing with contests: It’s your chance to get professional feedback…for super cheap! Seriously, $40 or $50 to have a published author, agent or editor look at your work is a steal. If you can view this contest as a transaction in which you’re getting a great deal with a solid return on your investment (dude, Dave Ramsey would be so proud!), then finaling or not finaling loses a lot of its weight. Either way, you’re getting what you paid for: feedback.

3) Just don’t assume the feedback is, like, God-breathed.

True and initially depressing but ultimately happy story: I once had a judge give me 31/100 on a contest entry. Thirty. One. And she said a lot of, um, unpleasant things about my story. Less than two months later, that same book sold.
In SO many cases, the feedback you get in contests is going to sharpen your writing and improve your story. But once in awhile, it’s not. Sometimes, gasp, the judge might get it wrong.

Remember this is a subjective process—as is all of publishing, really. Contests help you develop thick skin. But they also help you learn to separate the helpful from the unhelpful, the voices you need to listen to versus the voices it might be best to ignore. So if you get some questionable feedback, go to another writer, maybe somebody else who is a little further along the road, someone who can look at both your writing and your contest feedback objectively, and ask for advice.

4) Pay attention to the guidelines

I know, so profound, right? But I’ve been a part of judging a few contests now and several times have come across entries that simply ignored the guidelines. Don’t assume what’s good for one contest is good for another. In short, be smart.

5) Keep writing

Really. After you hit submit and send your entry off into contest-land, just get back to work. Write the next scene or start revising or brainstorm a new book. Because honestly, any wannabe writer can pull off a scene or a chapter or fifteen pages and send it in to a contest. But the writers who are going to make it are the ones who dig in and do the work of finishing and polishing and doing it all over again.

Finally, I can’t help mentioning one of my favorite writing contests. Every year My Book Therapy, a craft and coaching community for novelists, sponsors the Frasier Contest. (Full disclosure: I’m a MBT core team member.) The Frasier is a bit different than other contests in that it’s a straight storycrafting contest—no categories, no genre divisions, just storytelling. Judges are looking for things like a great hook, storyworld, a compelling inciting incident, stakes that matter, strong voice. This year’s final entries will be judged by MacGregor Literary’s own Amanda Luedeke, as well as Zondervan acquisitions editor Becky Philpott and award-winning author Susan May Warren. You can get all the details here.

- Melissa Tagg is the author of Made to Last and the upcoming May release Here to Stay. 

A Workshop on Getting Published

January 7th, 2014 | Agents, Books, Career, Conferences, Marketing and Platforms, Proposals, Publishing, Questions from Beginners, Resources for Writing, The Business of Writing, The Writing Craft | 0 Comments

BY CHIP MACGREGOR

 

A new writing conference is fast approaching — and you’re invited.

On Saturday, February 15, I will be speaking at the Dallas Writers’ University. It’s a one-day event, with a rather intensive agenda:

  • I’ll speak on “developing a book proposal that sells,” and the focus will be on giving practical, hands-on help to writers who want to create a proposal that will get noticed.
  • I’ll also be speaking on “creating your long-term publishing strategy,” with an emphasis on traditional publishing, niche publishing, self-publishing, and alternative strategies for writers to make a living.
  • Michelle Borquez, bestselling author and entrepreneur, will explore “building a platform around your concept.”
  • There will be a Q&A time, and everybody there will have a face to face meeting with me sometime during the day.
  • Finally, Michelle and I will be talking about the secret to success in contemporary publishing.

I’m really looking forward to this opportunity. I’ve largely taken time away from conferences the past couple years, but I love talking to authors about proposals and strategy. And you’re invited. Again, every participant gets face time with me, where we’ll be reviewing proposals and talking about next steps in a one-on-one setting. That means our space is limited to just 30 people.

Here’s the thing . . . there are a hundred conferences you can go to in order to get some basic information on writing. But if you really want to join a small group and find out how to create a book that will sell, make some money, and gain entry into the world of publishing by talking to some experienced people in the industry, I hope you’ll consider joining us. I don’t do many conferences anymore (and rarely do a writing conference), so I’m excited to be asked to be part of this one.

The event is going to be in the Dallas area, at a church in White Settlement. The cost is $225 and includes lunch – but if you mention this blog when you sign up, you can attend for $199. You can find out all you need to know by clicking here.

If you live anywhere in the area, I would love to have you come and introduce yourself to me.

Feel free to ask me questions — happy to be doing this!

What does a writer need to know about marketing?

December 4th, 2013 | Career, Marketing and Platforms, Questions from Beginners, Resources for Writing, The Business of Writing | 5 Comments

In today’s publishing market, there are a handful of things I think every author needs to know about marketing. These are all things you can think through, and though none of this is going to be earth-shattering or terribly “new” to you (my guess is you’ve heard much of this before), sometimes we can think about choosing certain marketing strategies or ideas, then lose track of the bigger picture. Or we assume the publisher is going to take care of things, when in fact they’re busy worrying about the new 50 Shades novel they’ve just released, and they’re waiting for YOU to market your own book. So let me offer a big-picture look at marketing your book in today’s environment…
First, you have to know yourself. What are your strengths at marketing? What do you do best? What is your message? How do you define your brand? What are the elements of marketing you  love to do? The fact is, if you know your core competencies, know what you do well and what you’re comfortable with, you’re ahead of most authors who are just trying ideas they’ve heard from others. So think back through your history, and make a list of the areas where you were good and comfortable and successful with your marketing. What are the resources you have available to you? Next, make a list of the opportunities you know you’ll have — the people, places, organizations, media, and venues you know you’ll be able to count on.
Second, you have to know your weaknesses. What are the typical problems you have with marketing? What are your struggles? What do you NOT enjoy? What are the roadblocks you face? (Hint: often these include lack of money, lack of time, and lack of expertise.) As you think through the problem areas, you’re trying to clarify both the strengths and the weaknesses, the resources and the roadblocks that are part of every marketing plan. If you can identify these, you’ve got better context for making marketing decisions later.
Third, know your goals. What are you trying to achieve with your marketing? You’re ultimately trying to sell copies, of course, but your marketing is specifically trying to do what — introduce yourself to probable readers? Create brand awareness? Build trust with your audience? Find new markets? Enhance your relationships with media? Educate people? Demonstrate the benefits of your book (more common for a nonfiction title)? Overcome objections? Expand your social network? In my experience, too many authors want to talk about the tools they can use, and not the goals they have in mind. So make a list of what you’re trying to do, and keep in mind that no marketing plan can do everything.
Fourth, know your target audience. No book is for everybody. Who are you trying to reach? What age? What sex? What do they like and dislike? Where do they live? When are they most likely to be available? What do they need? What do they want? Why will they listen to you? An author who knows his or her audience can stop trying to be all things to all people, and start focusing on the most likely readers. Knowing your audience helps you to make better marketing choices.
Fifth, know your strategies. That is, look through your first four answers, then begin to see how you’re going to reach out to people. Will you focus your marketing efforts on your unique differences? On your unique audience? On your unique message? On special events? On some special attribute in your work? Will you focus on your network and associations? On your huge social media footprint? Make some decisions on what basic strategies you’re going to use (and if you need help with this, there’s a ton of information online regarding this topic — check places such as marketingpower.com).
Sixth, know your specific marketing tools. What activities will you actually DO to market your book? This is the place most authors start — they love talking about the crazy activities and wild ideas they have. But without walking carefully through the previous steps, there tends to be a lot of wasted energy. So let me sum up how to select the best marketing tools this way: Spend time figuring out where your potential readers congregate, then determine how you can get in front of them. It might be writing magazine articles, or speaking to groups, or covering controversial topics on your website, or giving helpful stuff away, or throwing yourself into radio chats, or buying ads, or investing your time in blog chats, or… a million other things. But don’t just skip to this part of the plan and begin thinking up cool ideas to try. Instead, spend time figuring out the reasons these ideas will work by walking through the first five steps. And keep in mind one critical bit of wisdom: Most marketing won’t work. That is, most of the marketing you do will fail to move a bunch of copies of your book. That’s okay — take the Babe Ruth approach. The guy struck out more times than any other baseball player in history up to that time, and failed roughly 65% of the time at the plate. But that means he retired with an almost unheard-of .342 batting average, and had more homers, walks, and runs-batted-in than any other player in the first 100 years of the game. Marketing can be like that — you’ll try things and fail a lot, but then be surprised at the little things that work.
Seventh, write down your plan. Don’t just have it floating around in your head as a series of good ideas — write it down, so you’re much more likely to actually DO it. Besides, that helps you keep track of the things you got done, or have yet to do.
Eighth, create a calendar and a budget. When you write something on your calendar, you’re much more apt to do it, and it allows you to be strategic in your thinking. By adding a dollar amount, you’re able to see what your investment is, and figure out what your return on each investment is. (It’s why I encourage you to track your time, assuming you could be paying yourself about $20 per hour to get the work done — you get a better picture of your overall investment in each marketing activity.) This part of the process forces you to think like a publisher, deciding where you’ll spend your hard-earned dollars to market your book.
Ninth, execute your plan. You’ve planned it, mapped it out, and given yourself a time and an activity and a goal. Now go do it. Make sure you keep in mind what “success” is, and remind yourself that the majority of the things you try won’t feel very successful at first.
Tenth, go back and evaluate. Again, most people want to skip this step, but it’s what will help you figure out how to be more effective next time — by repeating the things the worked, and skipping the things that failed. You won’t remember unless you write it down, and you won’t be able to evaluate it if you don’t keep some records of what you did, how much time and money you spent, and what the results were.
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Um… yeah. This sounds like a lot of work. Frankly, it is. But the best, most successful writers I know are the people who do this sort of thing with each book.

Do You Mentor a Writer?

December 2nd, 2013 | Career, Resources for Writing | 19 Comments

by MacGregor Literary award-winning author Jill Williamson

When I started writing I was pretty much on my own. I searched long and hard for local writing groups, but couldn’t find one. I tried a few online groups and eventually started one with another YA author I’d met online. We sort of mentored each other as we went along, the blind leading the blind. It wasn’t the worst way to learn. And we did learn. We’re both traditionally published authors now.

I also attended writers conferences, read books on the craft of writing, and read writing blogs. But I never sought out a mentor. I didn’t know how. I was too shy. And I figured they’d all say no, anyway. But once I was published, I liked helping other writers. So I started blogging for teen writers. I figured that there were plenty of blogs out there for adults, so why not create one for teens?

Blogging for teens was a way to share what I’d learned. And I wasn’t the only one with this idea. At a marketing retreat, I got to know Stephanie Morrill who started www.GoTeenWriters.com. She and I talked and decided to combine forces. She had created an amazing blog for teen writers and graciously took me on as a co-blogger. Blogging for teens allows me to speak to hundreds of teen writers every week.

Later on we also put our various blog posts into a book we co-wrote called Go Teen Writers: How to Turn Your First Draft into a Published Book. This book has enabled us to mentor in yet another form and had been read by teen writers all over the world. How cool is that?

I officially mentor two writers. I don’t think I could handle mentoring more than two as it can be very time consuming. But mentoring is also very rewarding. It allows me to give another writer the support that I would have liked to have had back when I started out.

If you’re thinking about mentoring a writer, here are a few tips to keep in mind.

1. Define the communication plan.

It’s important to decide from the start how often you’ll talk and how, whether through email or phone or in-person visits at a local coffee shop. If you have some boundaries you want to keep, set those up in the beginning.

2. Be clear on what you will do and what you will not do.

There are authors out there who would send everything they’ve ever written to their mentor to read and send new material whenever they write it. But a mentor is not a personal slave, so be clear up front about what you will read and give feedback on and when you will do it. I tend to work on one project at a time with my mentees. I will also read query letters, pitches, and proposals too when they ask.

3. Help set goals and be sure and follow up.

Part of being a writer is meeting deadlines, so it’s important to help your mentees set goals and follow through. Be sure to put the deadlines on your own calendar so you can send reminders.

4. Give feedback but don’t try and make them into you.

Depending on the writing level of your mentee, it can be hard not to try and fix everything all at once. Some mentees need more work on their craft. Others don’t. It’s wise to work with authors who write things you like to read. That will help you remain impartial. Try not to over critique their stories, either. It’s a delicate balance. Remember that this is their story, not yours, and you are trying to help them grow as a writer.

5. Try to meet.

If you don’t know your writer personally, try to get together and meet. If not at a writer’s conference, than try Skype or Google Hangouts. You don’t have to meet on a regular basis, but there’s something wonderful about sitting and talking together face-to-face.

6. Be positive but honest.

Being honest can be a difficult dance at times. You are the voice of experience, and it can be tempting to be overly honest as we might with a peer. But new writers can be vulnerable, and it’s important to be positive even with criticism or the feasibility of selling a story idea so as not to discourage. Don’t be in a hurry to try and see that your mentee learns everything right away. Learning the craft of writing is a journey that each person must travel. We can help our mentees on that journey, but we can’t walk it for them and we should be wary of offering shortcuts. We mustn’t make our mentees dependent on us. We need to teach them how to go it alone so that someday they can reach out and find a mentee of their own.

Do you mentor a writer or share your expertise with other writers in some way? If so, how? Do you have any tips for mentoring? If you are a writer who would like a mentor, what help do you most seek?

GoTeenWriters_3D Bow 2This week the Go Teen Writers ebook is on sale for .99 in all ebook formats. If you mentor a teen writer, this might be a good gift idea for them. Also, feel free to visit www.GoTeenWriters.com and join in the discussions with teen writers.

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Jill Williamson is a chocolate loving, daydreaming, creator of kingdoms and the award-winning author of several young adult books including By Darkness Hid, Replication, The New Recruit, and Captives. She’s a Whovian, a Photoshop addict, and a recovering fashion design assistant, who was raised in Alaska. She blogs for teen writers at www.goteenwriters.com. You can also visit her online at www.jillwilliamson.com, where adventure comes to life.

FINDING YOUR VOICE

November 22nd, 2013 | Resources for Writing, The Writing Craft | 13 Comments

GUEST WRITER  ANE MULLIGAN

President of the award-winning literary site, Novel Rocket, Ane Mulligan writes Southern-fried fiction served with a tall, sweet iced tea. While a large, floppy straw hat is her favorite, she’s worn many different ones: hairdresser, legislative affairs director (that’s a fancy name for a lobbyist), business manager, drama director and writer. Her lifetime experience provides a plethora of fodder for her Southern-fried fiction (try saying that three times fast). A three-time Genesis finalist, Ane is a published playwright and columnist. She resides in Suwanee, GA, with her artist husband and two very large dogs, and has just returned from the ACFW conference.

Finding Your Voice

Fiction writers are told to find their voice. Well, what is it, and for that matter, how do you find it?

I mastered the mechanics of good writing by learning and following the guidelines or … stay with me here … the rules. It’s kind of like staying between the lines in a coloring book before taking on a blank sheet of art paper. Then, I began to understand when and how to break those rules to turn my manuscript into a symphony of words.

About that same time, I started a new series, and when I sent my critique partners the first chapter, they told me I’d found my voice. Cool. I didn’t know I’d lost it. I mean, I didn’t have laryngitis or even a sore throat.

Okay, I’m being silly and probably not very funny, so you can stop rolling your eyes. In truth, I’d been working on voice. I read Les Edgerton’s book Finding Your Voice. I highly recommend it if you’re still looking for yours.

In Edgerton’s book, he said go back and look at letters you’d written when you were young or at least before you began to write. There was your voice.

As I thought about that, I remembered how our friends always told me they loved my Christmas letters. Mine were the ones they actually read and looked forward to. If I was late with it I received a few “Where is it?” emails. Instead of a travelogue or a report on the kiddos’ doings, I made up stories about the major events of the past year, poking fun at us and liberally adding embellishments.

I pulled out those past Christmas letters and studied them. I noticed the cadence, the style, and the sound of them. That’s what I wanted in my fiction. I then tried a new game of “Name that Author.”

First, I went to a multi-author blog—it doesn’t work on any other type. (NOTE: This needs to be a blog of authors well known to you.) I chose Girls Write Out. Then, before I looked at the signature or by-line, I tried to guess who wrote it. Between the post and their fiction, I could see the similarity in the “voice.” It was natural and organic to the author. While some may have similarities, especially if they write in the same genre, each author does have a unique voice.

If you’re still developing your writing voice, read … a lot. Don’t copy another writer, but rather study what they do and how they do it. Then look at something you wrote before you started perusing a writing career. Forget the mechanics for a moment. What did the writing sound like? That’s most likely your voice.

Try it for a while and see what happens.

What tools does a writer need to make a living?

November 19th, 2013 | Career, Deep Thoughts, Publishing, Questions from Beginners, Resources for Writing, The Business of Writing | 8 Comments

We’ve been talking about “making a living at writing,” and I had several people ask what essential tools are needed if someone is going to do more than just type up a manuscript at home. A fair question…

I suggest there are nine essential things every writer needs:

A time to write. That is, a set time when you’re going to sit down and write every day. When I decided I was going to make my living at writing, I had a regular job, so I got up early and sat down at my computer every day from 6 to 8 in the morning. I’m not a morning person at all, so this was a sacrifice… but I had three small children, and it was the only time when I thought I could get uninterrupted writing time.

A place to write. You may need peace and quiet, or you may do best with the buzz of a lot of people around. You may like music playing, or you may insist on silence. Some writers use a spare room in their house, others want to take in the atmosphere at Starbucks. But whatever the exterior trappings, most writers do best if they have one place and one time, when they KNOW they are going to write.

A project to write. When you sit down to write, you’re not journaling or searching for your muse — you’re working on a project. It might be a blog post, or an article for a website, or the next chapter in your book. But when you start, you know exactly what project you’re going to work on.

A writing goal. Many writers set a goal of creating 1000 words per day. Others set it much higher. When I was writing full time, I had a goal of a chapter per day. The trick is to set some sort of goal, so that you can gauge your success. Novelist P.G. Wodehouse set a goal of writing 1100 salable words per day — something he kept up for more than 60 years, and the reason he published 90 novels and hundreds of short stories.

A bank account. If you’re going to start looking at your writing as a business, you’ll have money coming in and going out, so you’ll need a way to track income and expenses. This will help at tax time, since none of the money you earn writing will have taxes withheld. Start the business account in your company name, even if it is something simple such as “Janet Smith Writing and Editing.” In time, you’ll find you want to tie a credit card (to track purchases) and a savings account (to retain a portion for quarterly taxes) to this account.

A website. If you’re going to get the word out on your writing business, you’re going to need to invest in a decent website — something that tells potential customers who you are, what you do, who you’ve worked with, and how to get in touch with you. You’re probably also going to want some business cards, but you probably don’t need a huge stash of them any more, and you can get them cheaply online.

A filing system. Whatever system you use, you need to have a way to keep track of people, projects, and information without digging aimlessly through old emails or file folders. So learn to track your work and file it in some sort of system that makes sense to you. My grandfather used to say, “Some people have twenty years of experience; others have one year of experience twenty times.” The people who track their work are the ones who don’t have to keep re-inventing things.

A network. With time, you’ll want to know other writers, connect with editors, meet with publishers, bounce ideas off of others in the industry. So go to conferences, make friends, and get to know other people who are doing this. Much of your work will come from your growing network.

And, course, an up-to-date computer and software. I hate talking about this, since I’m not a tech guy, and used my first Macbook for six years before I decided to replace it. But if you’re going to work in the world of publishing, you’re going to have to know and use Microsoft Word, and you’re going to have to own a relatively recent version of it. Sure, you can create documents in other programs, but eventually you’re going to have to use Word to work effectively with everybody else. So, yes, Bill Gates owns your soul.

I suppose there are other things you could put on this list (an understanding partner, good internet access, a decent coffee maker), but these are things I’ve found essential to making a living with words. Would love to have you leave a comment with what other tools are essential.

Snippet’s Writer Dashboard Launches Today (a guest blog)

November 13th, 2013 | Books, Publishing, Resources for Writing, Self-Publishing | 7 Comments

snippet screenshot 1I’m excited to be able to share with you that Snippet–a brand new publishing and reading app–is moving their Writer Dashboard from private beta to open beta today.

As an author, it’s been amazing to be involved with Snippet. (If you missed my post a couple months ago about how Chip became my agent and how my upcoming book became a Snippet, you can catch up on that here.)

Even though Snippet has already gained thousands of readers, it’s still new, so I’ve included some information below about my own experience and about Snippet in general, to answer some questions you might have.

You can request access to their Writer Dashboard starting today, and begin creating your own Snippet at any time!

What does Snippet mean for writers?

Snippet gives writers a brand new publishing path that allows you to publish and monetize quickly and easily, but in a high quality, beautiful format. (Published Snippets are gorgeous, which was a really important factor for me as an author.)

How does it work?

With the move of Snippet’s Writer Dashboard to open beta, you can sign up to get access and begin creating your Snippet at any time. Each chapter is 1,000 words or less, but you as the author decide how many chapters your Snippet will have.  You also have the option of enriching your text with “discoverables” like video, audio, and pictures. (And just a note here: don’t let this part intimidate you; for one of my videos, I simply used my iPad to record myself, and for all of my audio, I used my phone. They turned out great, and it truly enriches the reading experience.) Creating and publishing a Snippet is free, and your published Snippet will be available for download from $ .99 – $4.99. As the author, you choose the price.

What are some ways writers can use Snippet?

1. As a companion piece to one of your books. This is what I’ve done for my book for moms, Finding Mommy Bliss, which is being released in hardcopy this spring. And this is what best-selling author Jeff Goins did with his Snippet, The In-Between – Shared Experiences, which compliments his hardcopy book The In-Between. You can also create a Snippet to share additional topics related to your book, such as  backstory or additional information or stories about your characters if you write fiction.

2. To share blog posts you’ve already written. Maybe you have some of your top blog posts in archives that you want to pull together in a Snippet and share. Or maybe you have several posts you can organize around a certain category or topic and make available to your readers.

3. To share an origin story: Is there a story behind one of your stories that you want to share with your readers? Maybe the story behind the writing of one of your books? The story about your path as an author?

4. And in many other creative and amazing ways. If you look at the current Snippet library, you’ll see the variety and quality of work already published. It’s pretty exciting.

If you’re not sure you want to write a Snippet yet, but want to check out the Writer Dashboard, you can still sign up and take a peek. You set your own deadline and determine if you publish.

And if you want to see what a Snippet looks like, mine is FREE for a few days in the Snippet store so you can check it out. Simply go to the app store and download Snippet App for free onto your iPhone or iPad. Then scroll through the store and tap on Finding Mommy Bliss to download it.

Last, if you still want to learn more, check out this short video:

Genny lives in Northern California with her husband and two kids, where she balances writing with motherhood and loves both. She’s an author, speaker, blogger and coffee lover. Her book for moms, Finding Mommy Bliss, is being released by Hallway Publishing in April, 2014. 

150 Resources to Help You Write Better, Faster, and More Persuasively

June 12th, 2013 | Career, Resources for Writing, The Writing Craft | 16 Comments

Today we have a guest blog, from Claire Morgan at OEDB…


It doesn’t matter if you’re a student or a professional writer: there’s always something new to learn and ways to make your writing more refined, better researched, and more effective. Writing is essential for students who want to succeed, whether they’re enrolled in one of the top online colleges or an Ivy League university. As essential as it is, learning to write well isn’t easy. The best practices for writing and research can sometimes be subjective, and the finer points of syntax and style often take a backseat to looming deadlines and strict citation guidelines.

Luckily, there are many helpful resources that make it easier to build on your existing skills while
learning new ones. We’ve compiled links to sites dedicated to helping students, bloggers, and professional writers improve their techniques while also becoming better editors and researchers. Browse through the following list or focus on categories you need most. It’s organized by subject and resources are listed alphabetically within. With more than 150 resources to chose from, you’re bound to find something that can make your writing life a little easier.

Blogs

These blogs can help you learn more about the profession of writing, brush up your skills, and even see what it takes to get a book published.

  1. CopybloggerOn Copyblogger, Brian Clark offers tips on how to improve the content, marketing, and business of a blog. A must for any writer hoping to gain readership in the digital sphere.
  2. The Creative PennJoanna Penn offers up her insights on writing, publishing, and book marketing on this useful blog.
  3. Evil EditorLearn what not to do when submitting your work to an editor through this entertaining blog.
  4. Fiction WritingThis About.com blog is a great place to get some basics insights on how to write better fiction.
  5. Harriet the BlogThe Poetry Foundation maintains this blog, full of great reviews, news, and information about the poetic community.
  6. Jeff Goins WriterCheck out Jeff Goins’ regularly updated blog or download his free ebook, The Writer’s Manifesto, on this site.
  7. Problogger: If you’re looking to turn blogging into a career, this blog is a must-read, offering advice on everything from branding to building better content.
  8. Write to DoneThis blog is home to hundreds of articles, all on writing, that can help you improve your skills at things like comedic writing, finding inspiration, and more.
  9. Writer UnboxedFocusing on the craft and business of fiction, Writer Unboxed features numerous monthly contributors who share their own insights to the professional field.
  10. The Writers AlleyLacking in inspiration? Pay this site a visit for a little lift, helping you stay on track with whatever you’re working on.
  11. Writer’s DigestLearn how to improve your writing, find and agent, and even get published with the help of the varied blogs on this site.

Business and Legal Matters

These tools can help you to create a freelance writing business, get you through assignments in the best online business programs, or just protect yourself should you decide to publish.

  1. CopyscapeUse this free service to learn if anyone has plagiarized your work.
  2. Creative CommonsCreative Commons provides free tools that let you easily mark your creative work with the freedoms you want it to carry.
  3. Intellectual Property LawThis list for online resources that focus on intellectual property will keep you busy for weeks. Some items focus on Canada, some on the U.S., and some on international law.
  4. Legal Guide for BloggersHere, The Electronic Frontier Foundation provides a summary of U.S. copyright laws as they apply to blogging.
  5. PerformancingThis blog provides information that can help turn your blog into the prime marketing tool you need for your writing business.
  6. Preditors and EditorsSave time and money by avoiding the common publishing scams featured on this site.
  7. U.S. Copyright Office: Your writing is copyrighted the minute you’ve put it in a tangible form, but if you want further protection for your work you can register it here for a fee. The FAQ is free, however, and it’s the best tutorial around on copyright.
  8. Writers & Artists: This “insider guide to the media” offers industry advice for writers and articles through articles, interviews, competitions, and in an online community.

Citation and Style Guides

These guides will help ensure you stick to certain styles when writing and correctly cite your sources.

  1. APA StyleOn the APA Style blog, you can get access to the fundamentals of American Psychological Association style, updates on specific style elements, and find loads of other reference material.
  2. Associated Press StyleIf you’re working on a journalistic piece, you’ll need to use AP style. Learn the fundamentals from this guidebook on OWL.
  3. Brief Guide to Citing Government PublicationsThis guide provides examples of the most common government document citations. These examples are based on the Chicago/Turabian standard bibliographic style.
  4. The Chicago Manual of Style OnlineThe Chicago Manual of Style’s website includes an online forum, guidelines for basic rules, and even creates quick citations.
  5. Citing SourcesLearn how and why to cite your sources in this helpful guide from Duke University Library.
  6. Comic Art in Scholarly Writing: A Citation GuideThe serious scholarly analysis of comic art needs an equally serious way to cite that material. This is the scholar’s pop art guide to citation.
  7. The Economist Style GuideWant to write for The Economist? Whether you do or not, these are some solid style rules for any journalistic writing.
  8. The Elements of StyleThis classic book by Strunk and White is offered up in its entirety on Bartleby.com so you can improve your writing without spending a dime.
  9. Footnote and Citation Style GuidesYou’ll find a vast array of citation styles for business, education, engineering, science, and social science from this useful resource compiled by Lehigh University.
  10. How to Prepare an Annotated Bibliography: This site will help you compile a bibliography when you’re ready to pull all those citations together.
  11. MLA StyleNot sure how to cite something correctly in MLA style? Use this online handbook to get started on doing things the right way.
  12. Turabian Quick GuideEssentially the same as Chicago Style, this documentation system does have a few differences which you can learn about here.

English Language Skills

Everyone, even seasoned writers, can use a little help with their writing and language skills. The following links can help you write anything from a term paper to an article for The New York Times.

  1. Common Errors in English UsageConfused about whether to use lie or lay? Use this site as a guide to help you avoid some of the most common mistakes in English usage.
  2. English PracticeThis site can help you practice English grammar and writing, even if you’re a native speaker.
  3. Grammar GirlGrammar Girl is one of the most popular grammar sites on the web and is a great place to look for answers to all of your burning questions about proper usage.
  4. Grammar HandbookThe Center for Writing Studies at the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana offers access to this incredibly useful grammar handbook that can ensure you’re getting things right in your writing.
  5. Guide to Grammar and StyleWritten by Jack Lynch, this site provides grammatical rules and explanations, comments on style, and suggestions on usage that Lynch put together for his classes.
  6. Guide to Grammar and WritingChoose from several modules that will help you to determine how to structure your writing with this tool created by the Capital Community College Foundation.
  7. How to Use English Punctuation Correctly: Punctuation can be confusing but on this site you’ll find a cheat sheet that can ensure you use your commas, semicolons, and quotes correctly every time.
  8. HyperGrammarThe University of Ottawa offers up a one-stop guide for proper spelling, structure, and punctuation on this site.
  9. The Tongue UntiedHead to this site to find basic instruction on grammar, sentence structure, word choice, and punctuation.

Genres

These resources can help those who write in certain genres ó from fantasy to technical writing ó find support, help, and ideas for writing.

  1. The Basics of Technical Writing: MIT professor Nicole Kelley offers students guidelines on how to create technical writing on science and technology topics.
  2. Children’s Literature Web GuideDavid K. Brown from the University of Calgary maintains this list of resources for writers who prefer to pen children’s literature.
  3. Essays on the Craft of Dramatic WritingLearn about the craft of writing a novel, screenplay, or play through reviews of popular stories.
  4. Fasntasy-Writers.orgWith news, a directory, writing challenges, and more, this site is a great resource for those who love to craft works of fantasy.
  5. Poetry.comShare your poems, get reviews, and win prizes on this fun poetic site.
  6. Screenwriting.infoThis site is an amazing collection of information on screenwriting. It offers up tips on how to write every element of screenplays, information about conferences, courses, and events, and much more.
  7. Short Stories: 10 Tips for Creative Writers: Need some basic tips on keeping your stories short but sweet? This guide from Jerz’s Literacy Weblog can be a big help with step-by-step instructions on the process.
  8. Textetc.comLearn more about all forms of poetry, theory, and criticism on this simple but informative site.

Information and Data

These resources can help you to better research a story, offering access to a wide range of data, information, and primary resources.

  1. Answers.comAnswers.com is an encyclopedia, dictionary, thesaurus, and almanac rolled into one.
  2. Blackfacts.comHere, writers can find a searchable database of facts related to black history that can be used to start research on a story.
  3. ePodunkePodunk provides in-depth information about more than 46,000 communities in the U.S. through maps, cemetery listings, and even local newspapers.
  4. FedStatsIf you need government stats, this site is a smart place to look. It brings together data from more than 100 government agencies in one easily searchable site.
  5. GeoHiveFor global statistics, consider using this site.
  6. InfoPleaseInfoPlease combines an encyclopedia, almanac, dictionary, thesaurus, atlas, and biography reference.
  7. Internet Public LibraryThis online library is full of resources that are free for anyone to use, from newspaper and magazine articles to special collections.
  8. The Library of CongressIf you’re looking for primary documents and information, the Library of Congress is a great place to start. It has millions of items in its archives, many of which are accessible right from the website.
  9. NACoIf the information you’re looking for is at the county level, this website is one of the easiest places to begin looking for it, with information on everything from county representatives to local events.
  10. The Old Farmer’s AlmanacThis classic almanac offers yearly information on astronomical events, weather conditions and forecasts, recipes, and gardening tips.
  11. RefDeskRun a quick fact-check using the reference materials found on this useful all-in-one site.
  12. State Health FactsKaiser Family Foundation provides this database, full of health facts on a state-by-state basis that address everything from medicare to women’s health.
  13. U.S. Census BureauLearn more about the trends and demographics of America with information drawn from the Census Bureau’s online site.
  14. WikipediaWhile you probably shouldn’t use it as your sole source, Wikipedia can be a great way to get basic information and find out where to look for additional references.

News Digests

Why visit a single news source when you can save time by gleaning current stories from digests and news roundups? Here are a few worth visiting for a great breaking news fix.

  1. AlltopAlltop aggregates news and blog posts from hundreds of sites. To narrow things down, you can pick a topic and get updates catered towards a specific area of interest.
  2. Free PressFree Press is a national nonpartisan organization that provides news about the media from a “democratic” perspective.
  3. MemeorandumThis site aggregates top news stories in politics and related issues as they happen.
  4. PopurlsHead to Popurls to get links to some of the day’s most popular news stories.
  5. TechMemeGet frequent updates on the latest stories in technology with the help of this site.
  6. WeSmirch.comEven gossip writers need a good place to find out about the latest dirt. This site is a great place to start.

Media Resources

These resources can help you learn more about what being an journalist in the modern age means, with some even focusing specifically on new media research and writing.

  1. The Center for Public IntegrityFounded in 1989, this organization aims to reveal abuses of power, corruption, and betrayals of trust by politicians and private entities. Their website is a great place to keep up with some of the best investigative journalism.
  2. CyberJournalist.net: If you’re drawn towards writing for the web, then make sure to bookmark this site to learn more about how to stay on top of innovations in media.
  3. Investigative Reporters & EditorsInvestigative Reporters and Editors, Inc. provides educational services to reporters, editors and others interested in investigative journalism and works to maintain high professional standards.
  4. Journalism.org: The Project for Excellence in Journalism is a research organization that specializes in using empirical methods to evaluate and study the performance of the press.
  5. NAA.orgThe Newspaper Association of America is a good place to look for more information about the current status of print journalism in the U.S., and to see a glimpse as where media is headed in the future.
  6. The Readership InstituteA division of the Media Management Center at Northwestern, The Readership Institute addresses research on how media can build readership, improve training for writers, and develop best practices for the journalism industry.
  7. State of the News MediaThe Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism releases a new report on American journalism each year. Check out last year’s edition for insights into the future of the field and innovations that are changing it today.

Organization

One of the best ways to supercharge your writing is to stay organized. These tools, most of them free, let you do that with ease.

  1. A.nnotateThis helpful tool allows you to leave notes for yourself about a resource online, so you’ll see them each time you return to the site.
  2. Bubbl.usA great mind-mapping tool, Bubbl.us can give you a leg up on organizing your thoughts and laying out a story.
  3. Central DesktopCentral Desktop provides simple project collaboration tools for business teams so they can organize and share information efficiently, communicate with others, and collaborate on projects.
  4. DropboxStore and share your writing online so that it will be accessible to you from anywhere, even on your phone or mobile device.
  5. EvernoteEvernote lets you capture photos, articles, and even music you like, storing it and organizing it for you so you can easily reference it later.
  6. Google DriveGoogle has created a tool that makes it easy to keep your documents, spreadsheets, and other materials stored and organized online.
  7. MemonicWith Memonic, you can take notes and clip web content, take this data with you or print it out, and share it with others who might find it interesting as well.
  8. MindMeisterAnother mind mapping tool, MindMeister makes it easier to see just where your story is headed.
  9. Zoho Creator: If you’re doing intensive research for a project, creating a database can be immensely useful. ZohoCreator lets you do just that, with an easy drag-and-drop interface.
  10. ZoteroCollect, organize, cite, and share your research sources right on your browser with Zotero.

Professional Organizations

Whether you’re a professional writer or a student planning to be one, professional organizations can provide useful resources, support, and information that can make you a better, more successful writer.

  1. ASNEThe American Society of Newspaper Editors is a membership organization for editors and those who work with editors, but any writer, aspiring editor, or others interested in what they do can get in touch for help, guidance or information.
  2. American Society for the History of Rhetoric: Founded in 1877, this group helps to foster the study of rhetoric throughout history, both in America and abroad.
  3. The Authors Guild: All writers should consider joining this professional guild focused on helping authors get copyright protection, fair contracts, and the right to free expression.
  4. Mystery Writers of AmericaMWA is a great organization for crime writers, fans of the genre, and aspiring writers alike.
  5. National Writers UnionThe NWU is the trade union for freelance and contract writers, journalists, book authors, business and technical writers, web content providers, and poets.
  6. Online News AssociationFounded in 1999, this organization is open to any journalist who produces news on the internet or in a digital platform.
  7. Romance Writers of AmericaThose with a passion for romance writing should seriously consider looking to this group for resources, advocacy, and professional networking.
  8. Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of AmericaLikewise, those who focus on the science fiction and fantasy genre will benefit from connecting with SFWA’s more than 1,500 members.
  9. Society of Children’s Book Writers & IllustratorsIf you write, illustrate, or have an interest in children’s literature, this is the place to turn for help and services related to your work.
  10. Society for Technical CommunicationTechnical writers will appreciate the professional resources offered by this organization, from recent publications to jobs to courses.

Rhetoric

Solid rhetoric and persuasive writing skills can help any kind of writing be more effective. Here are just a few resources that can help you build your abilities.

  1. American Rhetoric: Hear some of the most memorable and celebrated example of public speaking in history though the online speech bank on this site.
  2. Bibliographies in Rhetorical Theory and CriticismIf you’re looking for some great reads on rhetoric, look no further than this list of bibliographies on the subject.
  3. Read Write Think: Persuasive WritingHere, you’ll get access to a strategy guide that can help you become a more persuasive writer.
  4. The Forest of RhetoricDr. Gideon Burton of Brigham Young University provides this guide to terms from Classical and Renaissance rhetoric.
  5. RhetoricaVisit this blog for analysis and commentary on the modern rhetoric found in journalism, politics, and culture at large.
  6. Rhetoic: A TimelineConfused about which, Aristotle or Cicero, came first? Don’t know if Augustine is considered part of Antiquity or the Middle Ages? Fear no more – this timeline will answer your questions.
  7. Rhetoric and CompositionThis site is loaded with rhetoric resources, including bibliographies, journals, reference material, and blogs.
  8. Ten Timeless Persuasive Writing TechniquesYou can go wrong when you use any of the classic persuasive writing techniques laid out in this Copyblogger post.

Tools

The following tools include everything from word counters to image databases and can help improve the speed and content of your writing.

  1. AutocritAutoCrit automatically identifies weak words and structures in your writing so you can clean it up.
  2. Creativity Portal PromptsCan’t think of anything to write about? This site provides useful prompts that can help get your creative juices flowing.
  3. JournalistExpressIf you can’t remember the name of a specific newspaper or the name of a site you need, head to Journalist Express to get help with the answer.
  4. MorgueFileIf you’re looking for a free image to use with an article or a blog post, look to this site for photography that’s free to use, with attribution to the artist, of course.
  5. Resources for Technical Writers: Those pursuing a career in technical writing can find all kinds of useful resources and tools for both writing and career building here.
  6. Statistics Every Writer Should KnowThis site is billed as, “A simple guide to understanding basic statistics, for journalists and other writers who might not know math.”
  7. UnstuckWriter’s block can really destroy your productivity. Battle through it with this downloadable app that will help you get past any problem you’re facing.
  8. WordcounterThis program is much more than a basic word counter. Instead of just counting the number of words, it also pulls out words that you’re using too frequently, helping you add variety and interest to your work. Try running things through Cliche Finder, too, to weed out any other phrases you might want to avoid.
  9. Writing RoomGet support from writers, writing guides, expert advice, and more on this great community site for writers.

Word References

Thinking of a word but can’t pinpoint what it is? These resources offer help with spelling, definitions, synonyms, rhyming, and more.

  1. Acronym FinderWith more than 565,000 human-edited entries, Acronym Finder is the world’s largest and most comprehensive dictionary of acronyms, abbreviations, and initials.
  2. Arts & Humanities DictionaryThrough this dictionary, you can find the definition of hundreds of terms related to the arts and humanities.
  3. Dictionary.comUse a dictionary or thesaurus, translate words, or look up quotes and other information on this multi-purpose site.
  4. Glossary of Poetic TermsIf you’re ever unclear on the meaning of a poetic term, head to this glossary from McGraw-Hill for some illumination.
  5. MediLexiconMediLexicon is a comprehensive dictionary of medical, pharmaceutical, biomedical, and health care abbreviations and acronyms.
  6. OneLook DictionaryMore than 5 million words in more than 900 online dictionaries are indexed by the OneLook search engine so you can find, define, and translate words all at one site.
  7. RhymeZoneWhether you’re writing poetry, songs, or something else entirely, you can get help rhyming words with this site.
  8. Symbols.comWant to use symbolism in your writing or analyze it in a famous work? Symbols.com can help, with more than 1,600 articles about thousands of signs from Western cultural history.
  9. TechTerms.comIf you’re not a tech professional, chances are that you might find yourself more than a little confused about certain terms. Don’t be. Just look them up in this dictionary.
  10. Urban Dictionary: Keep up with the latest slang with Urban Dictionary, where you can look up the meaning of hundreds of words you won’t find in the regular dictionary.
  11. Your Dictionary Your Dictionary provides access to a dictionary, thesaurus, word etymology and much more.

Writing Services

If you need a little help with editing and revising your work, consider these sources for some perspective and guidance.

  1. Academic EditAcademic Edit specializes in editing scholarly documents such as theses, dissertations, and Ph.D. statements, but they also branch out into resumes and technical reports.
  2. EditAvenue: At EditAvenue, you can choose an editor to look over your work based on a wide range of criteria.
  3. Editing and Writing ServicesThe name says it all. This company can help you refine your work, especially if its for business or online.
  4. Editor WorldGet help turning a rough draft into a finished product from this professional proofreading and editing service.
  5. Editorial Freelancers AssociationThose in the market for an editor should check out this organization for freelance editors, writers, indexers, proofreaders, researchers, publishers, and translators. You can even post your job on the site to find help.
  6. FirstWriter.comThis site offers a wide range of services from editing work to getting in touch with literary agents.
  7. The Penn GroupWhether you’re looking for a complete rewrite or just a little perspective on your draft, this writing service has resources to help.

Writing Skills Help

Whether you’re writing a term paper or a book, these links can help you streamline and improve your research and writing.

  1. 50 Tools to Increase Your Writing SkillsYou’ll find some amazingly useful links here that can ensure you’re writing to your full potential.
  2. Final Year ProjectsMike Hart’s site offers practical sources of advice to help students successfully write a final year project, dissertation, or thesis.
  3. A Guide to Writing WellJoshua Sowin offers a great guide to writing well distilled from the information in The Elements of Style.
  4. How to Organize Your ThesisProfessor John Chinneck from Carleton University explains how to properly organize a graduate thesis from start to finish.
  5. How to Write a Better WeblogWritten by Dennis A. Mahoney for A List Apart, this article explains some of the things you should and shouldn’t do if you want to write a great blog.
  6. Poynter Online CoursesPoynter offers some great online courses that writers, especially journalists, can use to hone their craft.
  7. Purdue Online Writing LabThe Online Writing Guide offered by Purdue University is home to handouts and exercises on topics like effective writing, revising, editing, and proofreading, as well as other genre-specific resources.
  8. Mind Tools Writing Skills: This basic review of what makes for good writing can be a great reminder to those who are caught up in the process.

Writing Software

These tools can help writers pen their latest work from almost anywhere, with some boasting features that make it easier to concentrate, organize ideas, and share work as well.

  1. BloggerThis popular Google-owned site is a great place to start your own blog for free.
  2. ScrivenerThis popular, feature-rich program is great for organizing research, planning drafts, and writing novels, articles, short stories, and even screenplays.
  3. The Literary MachineThis free software allows writers to compile research and writing modules that makes it easier to draw on information collected during research to write an outline or a final draft.
  4. New NovelistCreated for Windows users, this program is specifically designed to meet the needs of novelists, making it possible to juggle ideas, notes, and more in one place.
  5. Open OfficeWhy pay for Microsoft products when you can create free documents with Open Office? This open source software provides similar tools to the Microsoft Office Suite, including spreadsheets, a word processor, the ability to create multimedia presentations, and more.
  6. Script FrenzyScriptwriters will appreciate this software. It offers an easy layout that helps outline plots as well as providing storyboard features, index cards, and even sound and photo integration.
  7. StorybookThis open source software can make it easier to manage your plotlines, characters, data, and other critical information while penning a novel.
  8. TreePad LiteThe free version of this software keeps the writing process simple, ensuring that information stay organized and your story stays on track.
  9. WordPressWordPress is another popular and free choice for starting a blog (or two).
  10. Writer’s CafeGet creative with writing fiction with this easy-to-use software. Designed by a writer, it features a notebook, journal, organizer, writing tips, and even an e-book all about writing.
  11. yWriter5Another word processor for writers, yWriter5 helps break down a novel into chapters and scenes to make everything a little more manageable.
  12. ZohoDocsZoho is another free word processing suite, and like Google Drive, it allows you to write and access your work from any computer with an Internet connection.

You can visit Claire’s blog at http://oedb.org/library/features/150-writing-resources/