Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Best of the Best - Writing Websites, Writing Books, Writer's Tools

One day I decided I wanted to write a book. I've read a lot of books. I've written a lot of essays, but I didn't have the first clue about how to create a my own novel length work. The first thing I did was google "How to write a novel". This approach led me down a circuitous path. Every time I learned something new that clicked on my metaphorical light bulb, I discovered new sets of questions. For every amazing website I found, there were ten stinkers. While this is by no means a comprehensive list of every tool that I found useful, it's a good place to start.


Richard Harlan's Writing Tips - This is a very hefty website. It gives advice on everything an aspiring writer could want to know. The author in question is very witty and I found the entire website engaging. This author is based out of Australia so unless you're an Aussie some of the region specific publishing information might be skipable.

Simon Haynes Writing Tips - This is another good site for beginning writers. It touches briefly on every subject that a beginning writer could need. He's also a programmer with several VERY useful tools for plotting and drafting.

J. A. Konrath's Writing Tips - This is one I'm sure most people reading this post will have already seen. It's very witty and informative. It contains much more information about marketing than any of the other websites I've listed. This is definitely the best website for what to do after you've published your novel.

Jim Butcher's Writing Tips - This one is my favorite, hands down. I actually printed the whole blog. Every post. It's a fun and fascinating look into the process and every post has meaningful content. This was the blog that really clicked it for me. This was the one where I stopped reading about how to write and started writing.


"On Writing"  by Stephen King - Fascinating book but not extraordinarily useful.

"The Elements of Style" by William Strunk - Every how-to-write book and blog cites this little book as one of its sources. While full of useful content, it is EXTREMELY dry.

"Write Great Fiction: Plot and Structure" by James Scott Bell - I have mixed feelings on this one. I found it very motivational but I also thought it could have been more succinct.

"Writing Fiction: Step by Step" by Josip Novakovich - This one is my favorite. It is a little dry and it reads like a text book but it also has exercises at the end of each chapter. I found it to be very useful practice.

"HTML for Dummies" - This was instrumental in setting up my website.  It allowed me to save a bundle of cash since I didn't need to pay someone else to do it for me. It will be equally helpful when my novel is ready to be formatted for the kindle, as kindle formatting uses HTML.

"The Bedford Handbook" - I'm pretty sure this is standard reading for college comp classes. This book has every single grammar and punctuation rule in the English language, even the really obscure ones. It is an invaluable tool. Used bookstores should have older copies at a large discount.

Freeware Tools

yWriter - One of Simon Haynes programs. It's very useful for organizing outlines, and plotting.

Google Docs - This program allows you to edit your manuscript from anywhere you have access to your email. I frequently use it to write quick scenes while I'm at work and then transfer it to my rough draft once I get home.

iGoogle - Let's me see my email inbox, my rss feed, post to my blog, edit my google docs, and keep track of my daily to-do list... all from the same page.

WinSCP - Freeware program that lets me keep my website updated.

I don't like floundering. I find indecision frustrating. I like to weigh all of my options, make a logical decision, and work towards a clearly defined goal. These are the websites and products that helped me figure out where to start.
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