Learning to Write – Top Resources

Posted on September 24, 2008 by Jared

Since my interest in writing began about a year ago, I’ve spent many hours searching the web for useful information on the subject. The amount of information I found was surprising. For some reason, I thought that writing as a career was unpopular. Boy, was I wrong. I discovered countless books, forums, and blogs all about writing.

It wasn’t long before I learned that writing is just half the battle. In my ignorance, I assumed that once you had written a book, fat checks were around the corner. “After all,” I told myself, “most people don’t write well or at all. Publishers are probably glad to see a book come their way.” I quickly learned that while many people don’t write well, publishers have enough books to keep them busy. Wait, let me rephrase that last part. Publishers have so many book submissions that you probably won’t see a book deal for a long, long time. That doesn’t mean that your shouldn’t try, it’s just going to be harder than you may have expected.

Another thing I learned is that you and the publisher are not the only players in the game. There are also agents and editors who stand stiffly between you and your big book deal. I realized that not only does one have to come up with an original idea and write well, one must also learn about researching agents, submitting queries, and formatting manuscripts. Indeed, there is another level in the art of writing that I had never imagined.

I have accumulated quite a few resources to learn from over the past year. Many of them are online resources, and some are good old fashioned books (Don’t sneer! We’re trying to write our own, remember?). The following are some of my favorite writing resources :

Books on Writing and Publishing

There are three books that any writer-to-be should own. None of them are expensive and all of them are easily to find. One will entertain you with stories and insight, another will press your nose into your mistakes, and the last offers great opportunities and contact information to get you started.

Image of the book, On Writing by Stephen King“On Writing” by Stephen King
You don’t have to be a fan of Stephen King to appreciate this book. What I like best about this book is its friendly pace, insights, and advice. With this book, you get to know a writer as a person and share in his trials and errors. Towards the end you’ll get a nice dash of advice, some do’s and don’ts, and a good feel for what it is like to be a writer. If you’re just getting into writing, read this book before any others. On Writing will give you that first bit of knowledge and inspiration to take your ideas seriously and, most importantly, to do something with them!

Image of the book, The Elements of Style“The Elements of Style” by William Strunk
Here’s a book that many of you might have been seen in high school or college English courses. It’s a no fluff, hard nosed approach to the English language, grammar, and writing techniques. Knowledge abounds in this book and, unless you’re a confident English major, you need this book and you need to read it several times. A great thing about his book is that it is very inexpensive. You can get a copy of The Elements of Style for less than $5.

Image of the book, Writer's Market“Writer’s Market”
Ok, so how cool would it be to have a huge index of agents categorized by genre in alphabetical order? Oh, and while we’re at it, how about an exhaustive list of writing contests and little magazines to get your foot in the door? Believe it or not there is such thing! It’s called the Writer’s Market and it’s updated every single year. When I first discovered that such a rich resource existed, I anticipated an inflated price tag. To my relief, I saw that it only costs around $20!

That’s all the books I have for now. I’ve got one or two more that I may include in the future, but I haven’t read them yet. When I do, I’ll add them here if I think they are worthy.

Online Writing Resources

Now that we’ve got some books to read, how about some nice online writing resources? As with any subject, there’s tons of information about writing online. The problem is knowing where to find it and whether it’s coming from a credible source. Here are a few of the sites I frequent, and recommend whole-heartedly:

Miss Snark, The Literary Agent
I only recently discovered the incredible Miss Snark. If you haven’t heard of her, don’t let the snarky name fool you. Miss Snark is an intelligent, gin drinking literary agent who knows her way around a manuscript. Unfortunately, Miss Snark stopped blogging some time ago so you won’t be able to ask questions or submit comments. The good (wonderful!) news is that she’s keeping the blog online so that late-comers can dig through the archives. Trust me on this: if you read through the archives, you’re going to write better and submit better queries and manuscripts. If the world of writing is a scary, blurry mess in your head, read Miss Snark! She won’t let you down.

Pub Rants
Agent Kristen has a lot to say about the publishing world… politely, of course. Her blog has been going strong for nearly three years now, so you can be certain you’ll find lots of useful information. I particularly enjoyed her Agenting 101 posts as well as her Blog Pitching Workshop.

Common Grammatical Errors
Here’s a bit of an odd link for you: The Electrical and Computer Engineering Department at Mississippi Sate has a nice list of grammatical errors. It’s a bit out of place, I’ll admit, but it’s good information and is well organized. I guess we shouldn’t expect less of our engineering brothers.

Absolute Wright Forums
I met the folks over at the Water Cooler earlier this year. If you join us in the forums, you’ll meet lots of friendly, fellow writers who will offer advice and share their experiences. Not only will you have another opportunity to learn from your peers, but you’ll have a great place to make some friends, jump into some fiction carnivals, or just hang out.

And they wrote happily ever after…
Well, that’s all for now. As I mentioned earlier, I have a book or two that I have my eye one. Whenever I come across a good book on writing, I’ll be sure and add it here. Same goes for the blogs. Happy writing, folks, and good luck!

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