Practical advice for editing and revising your own work. (Note: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.)
Donald Maass: Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook
Maass’s book by the same name is a helpful resource for authors, but the workbook is filled with hands-on, practical exercises to help you hone areas like character motivation, plot, tension, etc.
Michael Hauge: Writing Screenplays That Sell
I recommend this book frequently to authors–its concepts are as applicable to fiction and narrative nonfiction as to screenwriting. Concise, insightful information about storytelling that includes Hauge’s wonderful Six-stage Plot Structure, a great device for stories where you feel “stuck” to help you map your way out.
Every author should know how to properly use his or her tools tools, and prime among those is grammar. This industry-standard reference book is well laid out and presents clear, practical explanations for correct language use in everything from basic grammar rules to what to capitalize, what to italicize, what to hyphenate, and thousands of other minute points that the professional writer needs to know. The exhaustive index allows you to quickly find exactly what you’re looking for.
More of My Favorite Books on Writing:
Blogs and Podcasts:
Writer Unboxed: Populated by a variety of industry professionals–authors, agents, editors, etc.–and covering a wide array of topics relevant to authors (including editor Ray Rhamey’s delightful “Flog a Pro” series where he analyzes the first page of bestsellers and weighs in on whether he’d read further, and why or why not), this is one of my favorite writing blogs (full disclosure: I’ve also contributed).
Writers in the Storm: Great advice from experienced authors and editors (I’m a contributor) on craft, creativity, business, and more, including editor Margie Lawson‘s fascinating, enlightening posts on effective prose with her “psychologically-based editing systems and deep editing techniques.”
Writers Digest is the longtime industry standard for articles about everything related to writing in every genre at every level and in nearly any aspect of the craft, business, and life of writers.
The Creative Penn: Voted in the Top 100 sites for writers by Writer’s Digest, this blog is by Joanna Penn, a NYT and USA Today bestselling author of fiction and nonfiction and highly successful indie author who shares advice, experience, and inspiration about every aspect of the craft and business of writing. (Check out her podcast too.)
Well-Storied: Author Kristin Kieffer shares useful, practical, inspirational information on the craft and business of writing as well as the creative process in her newsletter, podcast, and book Build Your Best Writing Life.
Helping Writers Become Authors: Author K. M. Weiland’s blog posts and craft books are always insightful, useful, and practical, particularly for structure and character. Check out her podcast as well.
Live, Write, Thrive: This is author, editor, and book coach C. S. Lakin’s site, and she posts weekly about various elements of craft and the writer’s life, as well as offering an array of books on various writing-related topics.
For the business side of the business, there are few folks more knowledgeable than Jane Friedman. With more than 20 years in the industry, she creates the touted Hot Sheet newsletter about industry news; was the former publisher of Writer’s Digest and writes for Publisher’s Weekly, as well as her own business books for writers; and her award-winning blog offers excellent advice on everything from business strategy to craft to the writer’s life. She’s on the cutting edge of how digital advances are driving the publishing industry, and any author serious about success in publishing would benefit from her experience and knowledge.
We Grow Media: Dan Blank is an author and marketing specialist who works with creative people to help them connect with their audience and share their work. His weekly newsletter blog posts are a treasure trove of ideas and inspiration for creative people, and his book Be the Gateway is a refreshing way of looking at the process of finding and making meaningful connections with your intended audience–not just peddling product. In his inspiring podcasts, he talks with creative people about how they made the leap from talking about their creative goals to achieving them.
Writing Excuses: Seminars that dive into many aspects of craft and business. Each individual podcast is only 15 minutes or less, and includes writing assignments.
Blondie and the Brit: This podcast features writers talking to writers.
Creative Writing: A Master Class offers free podcasts of more than 40 authors–like Toni Morrison, Joyce Carol Oates, John Updike, Gore Vidal, and many more–talking about the craft of writing.
First Draught (Mary Chris Escobar): This site’s description tells you what you need to know: “The craft of writing with craft beer, bourbon, and books.”
Grammar Girl: Where to go for pithy, easy-to-absorb answers to vexing issues of grammar.
The Oatmeal: Not all of the Oatmeal’s hilarious comics relate to grammar, but the ones that do are a really fun way to remember bugaboos like i.e. versus e.g., or how to use a semicolon. (And if you get sidetracked into Matthew Inman’s other entertaining comics, quizzes, or blogs you won’t be sorry.)
Women Writers, Women’s Books: A trove of great articles and interviews by and with top authors, editors, and agents. Great for craft and the business of the business.
The Story Blender: Bestselling suspense author Steven James interviews authors, filmmakers, comedians, artists, and other creative people about storytelling. This podcast is full of anecdotes, insights, and secrets of great storytelling in any genre.
Researching agents, publishers,
self-publishing services, etc.
When considering hiring any professional to help you create, publish, or market your manuscript, make sure you check out the services you’re considering. For a free guide with tips for what to look for in an editor, where to look, what to ask, etc., just sign up for my newsletter here. Don’t worry–I’ll never sell your info, and I won’t inundate your in-box, just share occasional offers and information.
SFWA Writer Beware A helpful resource that serves as a guide to publishers and publishing professionals—with warnings for those with verifiable track records of unethical behavior.
Absolute Write Water Cooler This forum lets you see feedback and evaluations from people who have had experiences with a wide variety of industry professionals. Lots of existing threads here on hundreds of companies and people, so make sure you do a search before you start a new one.
Publisher’s Marketplace Some good info to be found here about member agents, editors, publishers, etc.
The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America has wonderful advice and guidance about selecting agents to query.
Now you know who to query; the next question is how.
There is loads of advice about this online, much of it by agents and publishers and experienced authors. Here are a few to get you started:
Nathan Bransford, formerly an agent and now an author, also offers great advice.
Agent Query offers a list of agents, along with what they represent, how they prefer to be contacted, and other info about them, and features some tools for tracking your queries. There is also a good article on this site about getting started in the process.
Query Tracker is a similar site.
Here’s a page that features successful query letters–the ones that got their authors their agents.
If you want hands-on, one-on-one query help, I recommend author MM Finck’s service the Query Quill. As an interviewer for the Agents’ Corner segment for Women Writers, Women’s Books magazine and community, frequent moderator of agent panels at writers’ conferences, and award-winning author of the article “Successful Querying: It’s Not All About the Letter,” Finck has the experience to help authors know how to catch an agent’s eye.
Great advice for authors:
Opening lines at The Atlantic.
Have a favorite craft book, podcast, or Web site? I’m always happy to hear about it and consider it for inclusion. Send me a note here.