There is so much out there for writers that it can be a little overwhelming. So I’m going to share my top ten writers’ resources (in no particular order), along with how I use them, to demystify all the offerings of this really extensive community we’ve created. For me, most of the tools center around being motivated to write. I love writing, but because it’s been a lifelong hobby, it’s become second nature for me to put it in the backseat to literally anything else happening in my life right then. Connecting with a larger writing community helps keep my thoughts aligned with the whole writing as a career thing.
- A writers’ group. I say this one a lot, but it’s by far the best tool in my writing resources arsenal. My writers’ group gives me a firm deadline, constructive feedback, and perspectives beyond my own. Not all writers’ groups are created equal, but it’s still better to join one than not. If it does nothing else, a writers’ group helps thicken your skin.
- Scrivener. There are a billion ways to use this software. For me, it’s an outlining tool. I add my scenes and scene titles to index cards and shuffle them around as needed. Others get way more use out of it. There’s a million youtube videos and tutorials out there for making the most out of this tool. It’s pretty awesome.
- Nanowrimo. Another tool to give you motivation and a firm deadline. Nanowrimo actually happens a couple times a year. Once in November for national novel writing month, and then twice for camp nanowrimo. The website will hook you up with local writers to broaden your writing community beyond the handful of people you see in writers’ groups every other weekend. There are word sprints and write ins and all kinds of fun. I wouldn’t expect what you have at the end of the month to be a novel, but you’ll at least have a solid draft. And for me since writing becomes exponentially easier once I have something to edit, those three times a year surges in motivation to just get the words down on the page are incredibly helpful.
- Writing Excuses or fill in any podcast on writing here. Beyond the helpful advice, just spending a few minutes of your day listening to actual people talk about writing is incredibly motivating. It’s like a light version of what I get out of going to writers’ group every other week. Writing is solitary. And while online communities are great, there’s something really important about being able to connect with other writers beyond looking at words on a screen that helps keep me in the zone.
- Conferences. Meeting amazing and successful writers, listening to them talk, actually talking to them one on one? It’s like the super-charged version of what I get out of writers’ group every other week. Like everything outside of writing, books, and writing related stuff just stops existing for those weekends. There’s networking and connections and important stuff like that, but for me the conferences are a great way to kind of charge me out of a writing slump. I only go to about one a year, but it’s unbelievably helpful.
- Books on writing. There are many. The most notable that it seems like everyone has or should read are as follows: On Writing; The First Five Pages; Thanks, But This Isn’t For Us; The Elements of Style; and Save the Cat. I read…maybe one new book on writing a quarter. And it has to be when I’m in revision mode, not drafting mode. Great resources, but when I overindulge they become useless because it’s too much information sliding around in my head.
- Fiction books similar in tone with what you’re writing. Note: what I’m not saying here is if you’re writing a book on…say mythology retellings, you go out and read every mythology retelling out there. That’s the surest way to lose what’s original about your take. Wait on reading the other versions of what you’re writing until you’re ready to query. You need to know what’s out there, but your book needs to be done. I wouldn’t even read Percy Jackson until Persephone was ready to query. But books similar in tone or style are really helpful no matter what genre they are. Be picky about what you read while you’re actively drafting, because it will get in your head. Keep it different enough that it can’t influence the actual events of the plot. But getting in the right mood, noticing how an author uses pacing to accomplish that? That’s always in your books best interest and it doesn’t compromise your integrity as a writer.
- Writing gear. This can be cutesy writing t-shirts, a new computer program, a new writing website, or anything that gets you excited. For me, it’s kind of like back to school shopping. Having lots of different colored pens and neat notebooks to start the year off with kept me organized and motivated for…at least a month before the novelty wears off. Sometimes you risk becoming enamored of the tool, but for the most part, the initial burst of productivity is more than enough to make up for it.
- Classes and workshops.I use these rarely, and they tend to have more to do with the teaching side of my career with the writing, but there are often some great gems in there for creative writing.
- Time machine. Pages. And any program that saves past versions of your work every other minute. Worth its weight in gold. First, because it stops my work from getting lost. Second because I can’t tell you how many times I deleted or reworked a scene because I no longer needed it, then found a perfect place for whatever got cut later. Nowadays, I even keep a separate document for cut lines and scenes, but there’s still stuff I don’t think to save until I need it.
The key to me with this list is timing. I don’t do everything on this list all the time. Writers’ group is twice a month, nanowrimo quarterly, conference more like once a year, and workshops or classes maybe once every three if there’s an awesome opportunity.
The podcasts, time machine, and tone appropriate books are daily things that keep me motivated or are useful for writing. Books on writing tend to fall in one of the months between nanowrimo. Scrivener I pretty much only use when outlining whereas writing excuses and tone appropriate books are pretty much used daily. The new writing gear is just whenever I notice I’m hitting a slump in motivation. For me it all comes down to motivation. Because once I sit down and start writing, I’m fine. But getting me to stop and sit down is a trick sometimes, so I need an arsenal.