Last year, I decided it was time – time to write the novel. I opened a Word doc and started smashing out words. But it didn’t take me very long to realize I had questions.
I’ve heard of a character arc, but to what exactly is it arcing? Why doesn’t my story have as much emotion on paper as it did in my head? What does a wannabe author post on social media? How do I get published? Wait... is it impossible to get published?
Are there other people out there just like me?
While I love the solo aspect of writing, I was delighted to discover the thriving online writing community. Oodles of people creating content to help would-be authors write compelling stories and navigate the sometimes unintuitive publishing industry.
Just about the same time I started writing, I also read a blog post by James Altucher called The Ultimate Guide to Becoming an Idea Machine. He recommends coming up with ideas in lists of ten for a straightforward reason. If I suggest you make a list of book ideas, you might have one or two. If you’re particularly prolific, you might even have five or six. But to get all the way to ten, you have to dig deep. You have to explore and push yourself to find the unexpected, to make new connections. This works for a lot of writing-related things: character traits, plot twists, settings, ways to die... you get the idea.
It only made sense for me to apply the list of ten to this wonderful writing community. Here’s what you clicked for – ten of the (many) resources I’ve used in my quest to become a published author. I hope some are new to you!
Inside Writing by Gotham Writers Workshop. This is a free weekly Zoom talk show with authors and agents. Each week, host Josh Sippie gets the inside scoop from a writer and an agent on a particular genre. Following the episode, they host #PitGotham, a chance to pitch your project on Twitter, and a few lucky participants will get feedback from that week’s agent. All for free. Do this.
The PitchWars resources page. If you’re not familiar with PitchWars, it’s a mentoring program where published/agented authors, editors, or industry interns choose one writer each to mentor. It’s fantastic for many reasons, but the one I want to highlight here is their website’s resources page. To enter PitchWars, you need to write a query letter and a synopsis. Yep, two of the most mysterious pieces of the querying puzzle. The list of resources here is incredible.
Track Changes, a miniseries of the “First Draft with Sarah Enni” podcast. While the base podcast definitely qualifies as great, the miniseries is my favorite. Over ten episodes, Track Changes lays out how a book goes from your laptop to the bookshelf. I found this series after I’d already done a ton of research about the publishing process, and it still taught me plenty of new things!
#AskALibrarian on Twitter. One of the most stressful parts of querying agents is the comp title (the book or books used to explain quickly to agents what kind of book you are writing.) A lot of authors have trouble finding books similar to what they’re working on because it can be difficult to read everything in a genre while also writing a freakin’ book. But do you know who does know the genre? Librarians. And it’s part of their job to help you find books. Ask them. They’re awesome. And if you can’t get to a real library because of, oh I don’t know, a pandemic, this Twitter hashtag is a great resource.
Save the Cat! writes a Novel by Jessica Brody. When I started writing, I thought surely someone had this all figured out, that there was a cheat sheet, so to speak. Turns out it is actually called a beat sheet. Before you turn up your artistic noses, think of beats like the foundation of a building. Once dressed up with paint and filigree, no one even notices the cement footings, but you sure do feel better up in that penthouse knowing there’s solid groundwork. It’s less prefab and more story engineering. And worth a read.
Book Riot’s podcasts. One of the recurring themes of publishing advice is to know your genre. Read, read, read everything you can. This is hard for a lot of authors, especially those who are doing this all as a side hustle and using every free moment to write. I’ve found book podcasts (my fav is Hey YA from Book Riot) are great to give me the cliff’s notes and find genre books I’m excited to add to my TBR (to be read) list.
Chapter Navigation in MS Word. This is a small thing that many of you have already done. But anyone writing a manuscript in MS Word who isn’t using the chapter navigation pane is causing themselves unnecessary strife. Take thirty seconds and do this now.
The Boston Book Festival (and other now online events). We could all use a silver lining these days, and here is a thin one. If you dream of attending TONS of book industry events but need to manage your travel budget, the current climate has forced many amazing festivals online. Events like BookCon went entirely online this year (and offered their content for free through FB Live). While some events have canceled, many have moved online, offering discounted or free rates.
#AuthorsChallenge2020 on Instagram. Author Debra Torres hosts a long-running, monthly Instagram challenge for authors. If you’re wondering what to post on social media, following the daily prompts can be a good spot to dip a toe. Plus, you’ll meet lots of other authors and, dare I say it, build some community. Some of my favorite writing buddies come from the Instagram community.
LitService Podcast. If you’re friends with me on social, you’ll recognize this one. I’m a bit of a fangirl. Yes, they have great guests and valuable writing craft discussions, but for me, the best part is the critiques. During the second half of each episode, the team reviews a first chapter submitted by a listener. Hearing them discuss writing in a non-prescriptive way has taught me a lot about being a good critique partner and even helped me self-edit. They truly are #critiquegroupgoals. (That’s totally going to be trending.)
Looking for more great resources for publishing and writing? Head over to Three Greats (with Bex Drate) and signup for a monthly email featuring these and many more writing resources.
What are your favorite writing and publishing blogs, podcasts, books, lectures, YouTubers, social media accounts, workshops, webinars, classes, and events? Drop them in the comments below.
And a big thank you to the lovely Elizabeth Donne for the chance to share with you all!