For Writers

My Favorite Writer’s Blogs, Sites and Podcasts

It should go without saying (but I’ll say it anyway) that opinions are just that. If someone says “do this, because this will be the result,” you shouldn’t just assume that’s true. Look at what people do–that’s more important than what they say. And though I might recommend a blog or a podcast, that doesn’t mean I endorse every single opinion that comes out of it. You have to pick and choose and weigh opinions against other opinions and results.

Michael A. Stackpole If you’re at all interested in where publishing’s headed in the age of new media, and you should be interested, then you might want to hit this bestselling writer’s blog. You’ll find it of particular interest if you plan to self-publish–perhaps less so lately, if not. (You also may want to listen to him and Michael Mennenga during Cover to Cover at the Dragon Page.–update, 2014. This podcast ended a long time ago, but the archives may still be available.) Mike also posts great fiction, and he’s funny.  If you’re looking for more writing advice, you can still listen to some of his “The Secrets” podcasts and you can find his “The Secrets” newsletters and other writing instruction and advice as well as some fiction in his Stormwolf store. He’s the bestselling author of I, Jedi and over 40 other novels. (Mike’s blog isn’t updated often anymore, but his old Secrets podcasts and various posts about writing are worth looking up)

J.A. Konrath A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing, indeed. J.A. Konrath makes bank self-publishing, and encourages writers to go that route rather than sign their souls away in bad contracts. While Dean Wesley Smith encourages writers to self-publish, Konrath is staunchly against the old guard. He’s signed with one of Amazon’s new imprints now, but Amazon is doing things differently than the so-called “Big 6.”

Duotrope’s Digest A searchable market database including reporting information submitted by users, a deadline calendar and a submissions tracker, among other things. Indispensable! (It’s now a pay service, used to be free. The user base is probably smaller, which makes it less effective but still good.)

The Absolute Write Water Cooler is a huge forum for writers that’s easy to get lost in if you let yourself.    If you want to trade-publish, then it’s a fantastic resource. The forums are a great place for browsing or asking a question, or just reading things like Learn Writing with Uncle Jim where you’ll get no-nonsense advice from a pro. If you want to write novels, you should work your way through his threads. If you’re looking for an agent or publisher, don’t miss the Bewares forum–posts about agents and publishing houses that sift the good from the not. There are separate forums for tons of other things, as well. It’s easy to lose hours here, so brace yourself. My one caveat: If you’re planning to self-publish, do yourself a favor and either stick only to the craft forums or stay away altogether.

 

Instead, read up at The Writers’ Cafe It’s an excellent starting point for self-publishers.

Story in Literary Fiction This site features a wealth of information about writing honest-to-goodness engaging literary stories. William H. Coles offers essays about various aspects of writing literary fiction, as well as blog posts, critical looks at workshops and MFA programs, interviews and a couple of lessons given in narrative transcript form that are well worth reading and re-reading if you aspire to write literary fiction. There’s a huge page of reviews on various writing texts that might help you next time you’re in the market for a how-to book. You can also enjoy several of his stories, including prize winners and many finalist entries in various William Faulkner-William Wisdom Writing Competitions over the last few years. If you’re used to (and sick of) literary stories where the protagonist stares at peeling paint on a wall for 18 pages and thinks about how crappy his life is because his mother once frowned at him when he wore short pants, you should read Mr. Coles’ stories right now.

Preditors & Editors Your guide to writing and publishing services. Look up publishers, agents and anyone in the publishing food chain. This site will help you avoid being taken for a ride, taken to the cleaners or put through any number of wringers.

Poets & Writers This is the website companion to the magazine. Lots of good information here as well as a newsletter to keep you up to date on markets, contests and the latest features in P&W.

The Writer’s Almanac with Garrison Keillor Get a poem in your email every day, and read it or listen to Garrison Keillor read it. You’ll also get a few facts about the day, such as which literary figures or important public figures were born on that date.

The Borzoi Reader Poem-a-Day Through Knopf and the Borzoi Reader you can get a poem a day in your email during April, which is National Poetry Month. You can also sign up for over a dozen other newsletters on the left side of the page.

For Speculative Fiction and Poetry Writers

Ralan.com If you write speculative fiction, you need to bookmark this site. You can find markets, response times, helpful articles, links and more.

The Black Hole This is a huge list of spec fic markets, as well as their response times and acceptance rates as reported by those who use the site. They couldn’t have made it any harder on the eyeballs, but it’s worth the headache and the lingering squint.

Writing Newsletters, Sites and Specialty Sites

Nanowrimo Go a bit mad every November and write a novel in 30 days. In 2009, over 2.5 billion words were produced by Nanowrimo-crazed writers. You actually don’t have to write an entire novel, but the goal is 50,000 words in 30 days. Get that first draft down in all its rushed, ugly-baby glory.

Query Shark If you’re among the brave, send your query to Query Shark and find out what’s wrong and what’s right about it. Just be prepared to get bitten and maybe finned and rolled a little. And drowned. But it’s all for your own good. No B. S. here, folks.

Writing World Don’t let the ad-plastered, cluttered, eyeball-hurting home page fool you. I promise, there are hundreds of great articles and tips inside.

Writers Write and the Internet Writing Journal I don’t visit either site much anymore, to be honest. I think the focus is on blog posts about publishing news, but once upon a time the IWJ was published regularly and served up some pretty great articles. Look through the archives to see what I mean.

Time Management for Writers (or Anyone)

The Pomodoro Technique This is kind of complicated sounding time management method that’s simple once you get past having to read a word like pomodoro (Italian for tomato) 50,000 times. Essentially, you work in 30 minute increments, 25 minutes on, 5 minutes off. After every 2 hours of this (which would be 4 sessions or pomodoros), you take a break of about 15-30 minutes. As a fantastic procrastinator, this basic method of working/break works well for me when I have a task to get through that seems like it could go on forever, but also seems more bearable when broken into 25-minute sessions. There’s an interesting way of dealing with interruptions that might help you avoid getting sidetracked, too. It’s an option, and like most “methods” for anything, you need to tailor it to your individual needs.

My Tomatoes This can be used with or without strict adherence to the Pomodoro technique. Go to the site, sign up, and click “Start Tomato.” After 25 minutes, an alarm will sound. You get to input what you accomplished during that 25 minutes. Then after a 5-minute break (or a longer one, if you so choose) it tells you to get back to work. I use it sometimes when I need to get some work done that I’d really rather not do. I find that it takes me far less time than I imagined it would, and is much less painful than I’d feared.