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This week’s top writing advice from around the web for Aug. 22
I subscribe to dozens of writing advice sites and new advice articles come into my news reader at a steady pace. You can see some of my favorites at my Writing Advice Sites resource page.
Here are the best writing advice posts from this previous week. Occasionally I include an RSS feed. To subscribe to an RSS feed, add the feed URL to your RSS reader app. The most popular is Feedly, which is the one that I use. It has a website and mobile apps, and it keeps track of which articles you’ve read, synched across all your devices.
This week, I’ve decided to divide the list into three categories.
The first, for the beginning writer, is about getting the writing process down. Finding time to write, discovering your own writing rituals, learning how to overcome your inner critics, fighting writer’s block, and how to finish what you start. Experienced writers sometimes hit these speedbumps as well, but they can kill a career for a new writer before it even starts.
Second, for the writer who’s already started getting the hang of the mechanics of getting the words down on paper, is improving the quality of the writing. Of course, you can’t improve writing if you don’t have any to improve, so the previous step is critical. But once you’re getting words down, you can start asking yourself if they’re the right words, or maybe you can find better words. And you can even start thinking about sentences, paragraphs, scenes, chapters, plots, character arcs — all that stuff that goes into writing readable work. And even experienced writers probably have areas where they can improve, or new things to learn.
Finally, for the writer who’s finished stories or books that are ready for the public, there’s the question of finding your publishing platform, producing the actual book, finding copyeditors and cover artists, marketing, and advertising. For beginning writers these are mostly theoretical questions, but for experienced writers, they are critical for success. And the answers keep changing as the industry changes, so staying on top of things is critical.
So here we go.
Productivity, mood management, and battling the demons inside
Five Ways to Trick Yourself into Writing by LA Bourgeois
In this guest post for diyMFA, Creativity coach LA Bourgeois suggests a few ways to motivate yourself to write, including picking a goal that you can really get behind, figuring out the smallest step you can take towards that goal, and creating a ritual that helps you take that step. For more advice like this, check out her website, LABourgeois.biz. You can also follow diyMFA on Twitter at @DIYMFA and on Facebook at @DIYMFA or subscribe to their RSS feed (direct Feedly signup link). DiyMFA offers classes, advice articles and other training materials for writers. Their motto is to write with focus, read with purpose, and build your community.
Writing from the End: How Endings Create Satisfying Beginnings in a Book by Mary Carroll Moore
Award-winning author, editor and book doctor Moore suggests that knowing the ending makes it easier to write a compelling beginning, with some practical advice for just how to do that. For more advice like this, subscribe to her blog’s RSS feed here (direct Feedly signup link), follow her on Twitter at @writeabook and on Facebook at @marycarrollmoore.
Cutting this 1 commonly used word can help boost your motivation by Curtis Morley
I don’t usually think of Fast Company when I think of writing advice — they’re a business magazine — but there’s some great advice here about avoiding the word “should” and what to do instead. Guest author Curtis Morley is the author of The Entrepreneur’s Paradox, founder of several companies and has worked with 96 of the Fortune 100. He helps entrepreneurs achieve next-level growth and, really, aren’t writers a kind of entrepreneur?
Increasing My Daily Wordcount by Jan Drexler
Fiction writer Jan Drexler offers a nice how-to guide to writing more, based on her own experience. She’s one of the main bloggers of the Seekerville writing advice site — subscribe to their RSS feed here (direct Feedly signup link).
Tame the Frenzy by Rochelle Melander
Productivity expert and writing coach Rochelle Melander offers some practical advice for how to get and stay focused. She’s the author of 12 books, including Level Up: Quests to Master Mindset, Overcome Procrastination and Increase Productivity, normally $14.99 but on sale now for $2.99. For more advice like this subscribe to Write Now Coach via their RSS feed (direct Feedly signup link), on Twitter at @WriteNowCoach and on Facebook at @WriteNowCoach.
How to Decide Which Story to Write by Scott Myers
If your problem is that you have too many ideas and too many projects you want to start, Go Into The Story editor Scott Myers offers an exercise that can help clarify your mind. For more advice like this, follow Scott Myers on Twitter at @GoIntoTheStory and on Facebook at Go Into The Story. Go Into The Story is the official blog of the screenwriting community The Black List and was just ranked as one of the year’s best screenwriting websites by Writer’s Digest.
The art and craft of writing
What Do Writers Need to Describe? by Chris Winkle
Writing description well is one of my perennial bugbears. Am I writing too much, or too little? Are my descriptions boring? Are they getting in the way of the reader’s own sense of the scene or the characters? So I’m glad to see that Mythcreants, one of my all-time favorite websites for writing advice specific to speculative fiction, is starting a series on the topic. In this, the first installment, Chris Winkle explains how to tie description into the story flow and into the scene’s main character’s point of view. Winkle is the founder and editor-in-chief of Mythcreants. Also this week on MythCreants, How Should I Handle Guns in My Story? and Five Characters With the Wrong Skill Set and their podcast topic was Underused Characters. Get their RSS feed here (direct Feedly signup link) or follow them on Twitter @Mythcreants and on Facebook at @mythcreants.
Story Arcs by Winnie Griggs
Romance author Winnie Griggs gives a nice overview of how to build a story arc — which is different from building a character arc. It’s a great introduction if you haven’t thought about this before, and a nice refresher if your story seems to be going off the tracks. She also gives summaries of the six most common narrative arcs, including “rags to riches,” “Iracus,” and “Cinderella.” Griggs is one of the main bloggers of the Seekerville writing advice site. Subscribe to their RSS feed here (direct Feedly signup link). You can find out more about Griggs herself on her website and follow her on Facebook at @WinnieGriggs.Author.
Character Types: The “I Can Top That” Person by Joan Hall
In this post for the Story Empire Blog, mystery and romantic suspense author Joan Hall offers a fun personality type for a supporting character — the person who is always trying to top other people’s stories. For more advice like this, follow the Story Empire Blog on Facebook at @StoryEmpire5 or on Twitter at @StoryEmpire or get their RSS feed here (direct Feedly signup link).
Creating and Resolving Conflict in Your Novel by Clare Langley-Hawthorne
Award-winning mystery writer Clare Langley-Hawthorne offers some suggestions for how to squeeze the most you can out of conflicts. For more advice like this, follow Clare Langley-Hawthorne on Twitter at @ClareLangleyH and on Facebook at @authorclarelangleyhawthorne. This article is a guest post for The Kill Zone, the home of eleven top suspense writers and publishing professionals. They cover the publishing business, marketing how-tos, and the craft of writing. Follow them on RSS here (direct Feedly signup link). Follow them on Twitter @killzoneauthors.
Squeeze More Conflict Out of Your Settings by James Scott Bell
In a follow-up to Clare Langley-Hawthorne’s Creating and Resolving Conflict in Your Novel, thriller writer James Scott Bell offers some tips for finding conflict ideas in your book’s world. Bell is the author of more than twenty books about writing, and you can follow him on Twitter at @jamesscottbell. This article is also a guest post for The Kill Zone.
Back to the Beginning: How Creation Myths Affect Character Motivation by Kelsey Allagood
We know that origin stories play a big role in character motivations. How did Batman become a superhero? Or the Joker, a supervillain? But worlds have origin stories as well. We’ve got religious ones, like the Garden of Eden. Or imaginary ones, like how the aliens created the Matrix. In this article for Writer Unboxed, fantasy writer and trained political analyst Kelsey Allagood talks about how character beliefs about how their worlds were created can affect their actions. I can see immediate implications of this for my own writing and will actually incorporate a creation myth element into the story I’m currently writing. For more advice like this, follow Allagood on Twitter at @KelseyAllagood. For more advice from Writer Unboxed, follow them on RSS (direct Feedly signup link) and on Twitter.
Relationship Thesaurus Entry: Therapist and Patient by Becca Puglisi
Becca Puglisi is one of the founders of the Writers Helping Writers website and the author of the Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression, which has sold over half a million copies. In this article, she talks about the various ways that the patient-therapist relationship can play out in fiction. If you like this post, you can check out the rest of the Relationship Thesaurus series here. This post reads like it could be an entry in one of her series of thesaurus writing guides, but I don’t see it there or on her Amazon author page. Maybe the book is coming and the blog posts are a preview? I’m keeping my eye out. Meanwhile, if you want more advice like this, subscribe to the Writers Helping Writers RSS feed (direct Feedly signup link).
Say What? Five Fast Tips for Writing Authentic Dialogue by Jenn McKinlay
In this guest post for Writer’s Digest, bestselling mystery and romance author Jenn McKinlay offers five tips and tricks to make conversations sound like something you might overhear in real life. If you want more advice like this, follow Writer’s Digest via their RSS feed (direct Feedly signup link), on Twitter at @WritersDigest and on Facebook at @writersdigest. Also check out their Writer’s Digest Best Creativity Websites 2021 and 9 Best General Resources Websites for Writers 2021 and Writer’s Digest’s Best Genre/Niche Websites 2021. You can also follow Jenn McKinlay on Twitter at @MckinlayJenn and on Facebook at @JennMcKinlayAuthor.
Describing a Character’s Emotions: Problems and Solutions by Angela Ackerman
I know that I should show what a character is feeling instead of just saying that they are feeling a particular way, but it’s always a struggle. Writers Helping Writers co-founder Angela Ackerman explains how to do it. Ackerman is a writing coach, international speaker, and co-author of the bestselling book, The Emotion Thesaurus and its many sequels. I own a copy of this book and use it frequently, and highly recommend it. You can subscribe to the Writers Helping Writers RSS feed here (direct Feedly signup link). Or follow Ackerman on Twitter at @AngelaAckerman.
Let Your Readers Think For Themselves by Ryan Lanz
Describing how they feel by using actions is just half of the battle, though. You should also show through action what characters are thinking, remembering, or realizing. In this post, writer Ryan Lanz offers some tips for how to do this, with plenty of examples. If you want more advice like this, follow him on RSS (direct Feedly signup link), on Twitter at @TheRyanLanz and on Facebook at @AWritersPath. He’s also the author of The Idea Factory: 1,000 Story Ideas and Writing Prompts to Find Your Next Bestseller.
Why Ask Why? Because Your Readers Will by Janice Hardy
Fantasy author Janice Hardy explains how to figure out the reasons why things happen in your story so that they don’t feel contrived. Hardy has several must-have writing guides up on Amazon and you can follow her on Twitter @Janice_Hardy. Follow Janice Hardy’s Fiction University via RSS feed here (direct Feedly signup link), or follow them on Facebook at @JaniceHardysFictionUniversity.
Flat Characters vs. Round Characters by September C. Fawkes
In this post, freelance editor September Hawkes lays out the differences between well-rounded characters and one-dimensional ones, and when to use each. If you want more advice like this, follow her on her RSS Feed (direct Feedly signup link), follow her on Twitter @SeptCFawkes and on Facebook at September C. Fawkes.
Foreshadowing: 10 Clever Methods to Write An Engaging Plot Twist by Joslyn Chase
I want to have plot twists in my stories, and I want them to work. Turns out, there’s a science to setting them up, and this article spells out some of the techniques that can work well. Joslyn Chase is a thriller writer — you can see all her books on Amazon here and follow her on Facebook here. This article is a guest post for The Write Practice, an advice site from a group of writers. They also have a writing critique community and a newsletter. Follow The Write Practice on Twitter, on Facebook, or subscribe to their RSS feed (direct Feedly signup link).
The business side of writing
Why I’m Serializing My Novel via Substack by Elle Griffin
I’m putting this article at the top here because it’s a must-read for anyone interested in serialized fiction. In this guest post for The Write Life, Elle Griffin, who is herself serializing her gothic novel via Substack, goes into a great deal of depth about the business side of serializing novels, and authors’ experience of different platforms. If you want more advice like this, follow The Write Life via their RSS feed (direct Feedly signup link), on Facebook at @TheWriteLifeGroup and on Twitter at @thewritelife.
How To Work With Beta Readers and ARC Readers by Lucie Ataya
In this guest post for Kiingo, Lucie Ataya explains the difference between beta readers and advance copy readers, how to find them, how to organize them, and how they can help you improve your manuscript or promote your books. Ataya is the co-founder of The Indie Writers Collective, writes dystopian thrillers, and recently released a free guide to self-publishing, Passing It Forward. Kiingo is a storytelling school dedicated to teaching the fundamental principles of successful storytelling with online courses and how-to articles. Follow them on their RSS feed (direct Feedly signup link), on Twitter here, on Facebook here, or support them on Patreon.
14 Reasons Agenting Is Harder Now Than 20 Years Ago by Kristin Nelson
Looking for an agent for you book? This article can help you understand where they’re coming from. Spoiler alert: with all the self-publishing options, it’s getting harder to be an agent. Kristin Nelson is an agent with the Nelson Agency who’s represented more than 45 New York Times bestsellers. For more advice like this, follow her on Twitter at @agentkristinNLA and on Facebook at @agentkristin.
Storyville: How to Ask For, and Give, Book Blurbs by Richard Thomas
In this guest post for LitReactor, award-winning horror novelist Richard Thomas gives practical advice for how to ask other writers to write blurbs for your books, and for how to write blurbs for their books. Very informative and specific. If you want more from him, follow him on Twitter at @richardgthomas3. LitReactor a magazine, writing community, and a place to find writing classes and workshops in addition to free advice articles. Subscribe to their RSS feed here (direct Feedly signup link), or follow them on Twitter @LitReactor or on Facebook at @litreactor. Another good article on LitReactor this week is A Quick and Dirty Guide to Writing a Book Proposal by Emmanuel Nataf.
How to Get Book Reviews for Self-Published Authors by Clayton Noblit
And here’s a practical post about how to get book reviews by using advance reader copies, promoting on Freebooksy, reaching out to family and friends, paying for reviews, and by reaching out to your reader mailing list. Clayton Noblit is a marketing manager at Written Word Media, a book marketing company. I am a big fan of this site. If you are, too, you can subscribe to their RSS feed (direct Feedly signup link). Also check out their recent article Amazon A+ Content for Authors, about Amazon’s new promotional offerings for independent authors. And don’t miss the article I refer people to the most, The Evolution of an Author: How to Go from Zero to $100k from your Writing, which is based on a survey of more than 1,000 authors.
An Editor Declined to Work with You: Here Are 8 Reasons Why by Shala Raquel
Independent authors live and die by editing. But, apparently, some authors are huge Karens, and editors refuse to work with them. Don’t be a Karen. Read this post by professional book editor Shala Raquel. If you want more advice like this, follow Shala Raquel on Twitter at @shaylaleeraquel, on Facebook at @shaylaleeraquel, and check out her top-ten rated podcast for authors, Write Your Best Book. Also, check out her book The 10 Commandments of Author Branding and get a free copy of her Pre-Publishing Checklist.
Am I missing any useful writing advice sites? Let me know in the comments or email me at [email protected].