3 Best Resources for New Writers

Welcome back, lovely writers!  Today, we’re going to cover the Three Best Resources for New Writers.  Like last week’s post, these resources are also recommended to the more experienced writer.  There are so many other resources and sites and blogs that are helpful (check out the Resources for Writers tab at the top of this site), but these two resources are the ones that made the most difference in my writing journey.  They’re also the ones that I most heartily recommend when I meet someone who is a new writer.

Enjoy.

1. Critique Circle (Website)

cc.png

 

This website, while it might not look the prettiest, is perhaps the most powerful tool to helping new writers hone their craft.  Warning: it will take time and energy to get fully reap the benefits of this site.  But if you put in the hours, you will learn so much.

Just a few of the cool features of this website:

  • Critiques.  You can give critiques on other people’s stories, and earn credits for doing so.  Then you can spend credits to post your own story (or a chapter of a novel), and other people will critique it.  Basically, they read through it and tell you how to make your story or your writing stronger.  Now, not every critique you receive will be The Greatest Advice Ever.  You will have some people just tell you where you left out a comma.  But there are writers on the site who know their craft, and they know it well.  And they are there to help you learn yours.  OH, AND YOU WILL ALSO LEARN SO MUCH from having to critique other people’s stories.
  • Forums.  There are forums for everything from Writing to Publishing to Poetry to Blogging.  And there are generally intelligent conversations, with a mix of Newbies and Oldies.  People are generally polite, helpful, and entertaining.
  • People.  I’ve made a handful of lovely writing buddies on this site.  There have even been a couple people who would critique my story, chapter after chapter, as I posted it.  It’s a site for making friends, finding blogs, finding a community.

While I may not be on there much anymore (I feel a bit as though I’ve outgrown it, but perhaps that’s arrogant of me), I still visit it every once in a while to check up on my old writing buddies.

One last note on Critique Circle: this was the website that got me from “I am writing a book?!  How?  What?  IS MY STORY EVEN GOOD?  What do I do from here?!” to “Okay, I know what changes I need to make to my writing.  I know how to write good dialogue.  I know how to write better characters.  I know what works and what doesn’t.  I know I am a writer.”  It’s the place where I grew the most as a writer, and I’ll always be thankful to the people who helped me to improve and inspired me to keep going.

2. Self Editing for Fiction Writers (Book)

self editing for fiction writers

Disclaimer: this is the only writing-craft book I’ve ever read.  And it was absolutely, entirely, wonderful.  It covers everything from plotting to dialogue tags to point of view.  It’s interspersed with practical examples, and shows you how to incorporate the ideas they teach.

The writing in this lil book is so good, too.  It’s snappy and quick and full of witty jokes.  There’s not a boring page in it, and the concepts are easy-to-grasp and so, very, incredibly helpful.  I cannot recommend it enough.

Hmm, I need to go find my copy and read it again.

 

3. @InspiredToWrite on Instagram

inspired to write.png I’ve followed Amie (instagram.com/inspiredtowrite/) on Instagram for over a year, and her words have filled me with such hope and joy.  She talks about her writing in a way that is real, and raw, and honest.  She won’t talk to you about adjectives and adverbs – she’ll tell you about how to find the strength to write after a long day, or about the absolute magic that storytelling is.

I highly recommend you follow her if you have an instagram.  She writes little letters in the descriptions of her posts.  Go read them.  They will bring you strength and hope as a writer, which is something that is in high demand.

And she’ll post updates on her stories about the mundane, day-to-day struggles of being a writer, such as what happens when your laptop dies at the coffee shop or I just got another rejection, how do I deal with this?

Go give her a follow.  You won’t be sorry.

// I’d love to hear in comments what you’ve found to be the writerly resource!  I’m always looking for more writerly communities, books on craft, and just excellent lil things to make our writing job easier. //

 

 

 

 

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The Setting of a Writer

// Setting: noun. the place or type of surroundings where something is positioned or where an event takes place. //

As writers, we sometimes discuss the setting in our writing: the forest where the lost traveler finds himself at night, the tavern where the princess in disguise strikes a deal for her father, the garden where the love interest finally confesses his burning passion.  But what about the setting of our writing: where it happens, what it looks like, how it feels, what we wear?

Today, I wrote for a short while at my local Panera Bread (excellent choice for writing, if you ask me).  Tonight as I scrolled my twitter feed (follow me, @3lizabeth_A) something caught my eye: an author I follow (Ally Carter) posted that SHE had been writing at HER Panera Bread today as well.  And.  Wow.  For a shining moment, I saw myself as an author.  Not just a writer, like, someone-who-writes-for-fun, but an Author, someone who publishes books.  I had been working on a novel at a Panera Bread, while, at the same time, one of my favorite authors had been working on her novel at another Panera Bread somewhere else in the world.  It was a magical feeling.

So.  On the topic of writing and setting and all that jazz.

I wrote my first novel, The Sound of Color, almost entirely in my bedroom.  Sixteen-year-old Beth was a little terrified of the fact that she was writing a novel, so she kept it a secret for a while – a private, behind-closed-doors thing, only shared with a select few.  I wrote it in an armchair from my grandparents, with slippers on my feet and silence in the room.  It was a late night love affair, requiring only a Lord of the Rings soundtrack and a wild imagination.

But THEN, the 2015 NaNoWriMo struck and everything changed.  A busy Senior in Highschool, if I was going to write 50,000 words in a month, I was going to have to get creative with where I wrote.  So I brought my laptop to school and wrote between classes.  I’d write during carrides and lunch breaks, letting my novel-writing bleed into all the other areas of my life.  It was so freeing to write anywhere and everywhere.

And then I moved off to college.  And to be honest, I’ve struggled to find a time and place that feels right for writing when I’m away from home.  But I am teaching myself to let writing bleed into my “adult life” as well.  I’m teaching myself to look for Writing Spots.

So now?  Now, writing happens at Panera Bread in the half hour before meeting a friend for lunch.  It happens late at night with candles lit because the power has gone out, and I’m hoping my laptop battery lasts until I finish the chapter.  It happens in a childhood bedroom while I wait for my best friend to get out of the shower after I’ve dyed her hair.  It happens at the table after dinner, dishwasher humming in the background, family members talking in the other room.  It happens in a quirky coffee shop on campus, or in a busy college library.

One of the things that I’ve learned about myself in the past year is that I tend to write better when I treat is as something professional, or official.

Power to you, writers, if you can write in sweats and sweaters, laying in bed, with the covers pulled up to your chin.  The writing you do is still valid and still hard work and still important.  But I’ve found that I write the best if I take five minutes to put on real shoes, do my hair, and pretend like I’m going to a meeting.  If I try to write when I’m in bed or in my room, it’s too easy to sneak over to YouTube or Facebook or Twitter.  But if I dress like I’m off to a meeting, and I take my laptop to a table or desk, then it feels like I’m there to get something done.  And so the writing gets done much easier.

So, I’m curious: what do you all wear to write?  Where do you write the best?  I’m fascinated by how different settings can effect my writing so much, and I’m curious if you all experience the same thing.  Let’s chat in the comments.

// ps, this post is partially inspired by my friend Vivian’s recent post about writing and sweaters and books.  she’s great, go check her out. //

October Hiatus? NaNoWriMo?

hiatus:

[hahy-ey-tuh s] 

nounplural hiatuses, hiatus.

1.  a break or interruption in the continuity of a work, series, action, etc.

(Thank you, dictionary.com for that fabulous definition.)
If you’re a person (like me) who follows any TV series, you know full well the definition of this word Hiatus.  For people who watch certain shows, it means a long wait between seasons that can be quite annoying. *Cough* Sherlock *cough*

Anyways, here’s a little blog post to say… this blog is going to have an October Hiatus.  I want to take some time off to focus on my actual book-writing projects (and on my homework) as well as on some other creative endeavors.

I hope to see you all on November 1st, where I’ll probably have a post up about how great the first day of NaNoWriMo is going and how excited I am for the month ahead.

Until then, keep your hearts in your story and your fingers on the keys.  Good luck.

P.S. NaNoWriMo starts in a month!  Are you lovely folks signing up?  If you’re looking for a buddy, my NaNo username is SharpieBeth, and I’d love you to friend me.  I’m always looking for more friends to sign up for that crazy adventure with me.

gandalf share in adveture

 

P.P.S If you’re super sad that I’m not filling your October with lots of posts about NaNoPrep, feel free to check out all my previous blog posts in the NaNoWriMo category right here.  You might find some inspiration.

A College Campus

Hello my lovely writers!  Sorry it’s been a while.  The fall semester just started up here in the US, and I’ve been a little busy.  This is the third week of classes me, which my friends and I affectionately call “death week” – it’s the week when all the first papers are due, every class suddenly has ten homework assignments, a quiz, and fifty pages of reading, and oh by the way you have an exam next week so START STUDYING!

I’m actually pretty on top of my homework-game.  Not so much the writing-game, but, you know, priorities.

she needs to sort out her priorities

Anyways, if it’s been a while since you’ve been on a college campus, let me tell you: it’s an amazing place for writerly inspiration. 

I’ve said before that I view characters as a jigsaw puzzle of details.  Well, if you need some details, look no further than your college campus (if you live on one).  The extraordinary and strange surround us every day in the form of sleep-deprived young adults and strangely-purposed buildings.

Here are some examples from the few weeks I’ve been back on campus:

  • The guy in the coffee shop at 10pm, bare feet proudly displayed
  • The lady in the library whose office has about two hundred books, a spinning wheel, and a beautiful vintage bicycle
  • The guy in a sports jersey watching a football game alone in an empty lounge, standing and pacing as he watches.  His team scores a goal, and he jumps into the air, complete with the fist punch and cry of victory.
  • The girl with twenty body piercings who is the most gentle, quiet, Hufflepuff-like person I’ve met
  • The guy who skateboards around sitting down on his skateboard
  • The professor who curses a lot, has tattoos up his arms, and is passionate about medieval literature
  • The guy who, no matter the weather, is always wearing a trenchcoat
  • Those two girls that you always see together, no matter what.  Do they never get tired of each other?
  • The guy who can’t help but put his feet on the table in class
  • The girl who snorts when she laughs, even when in class

It’s not just people, it’s places, too:

  • The coffee shop with green and black walls, abstract paintings, and metal chairs that feel like they’re from the 80’s.  Also purple couches, mirrors along one wall, and low, pulsing music that makes you want to dance a little.
  • The oldest building on campus, with narrow, catercorner halls and no elevator and little half-staircases every fifty feet.  It smells like a mixture of old carpet and old books, and it’s very easy to get lost in.  Unmarked doors that seem to lead to Nowhere or Narnia.
  • The little courtyard and fountain, with wooden benches and flowers around it.  If you walk there early in the morning, it feels like you’ve just missed the fairies.
  • The quiet section of the library, back where the endless rows of books stand – a place where whispers earn glares, and it feels like if you make too much noise you’ll wake the furniture.
  • The whole campus on a Sunday morning: quiet and empty; a city with sunshine and birds but no people.

College campuses are fun places to be most of the time.  I’d love to hear your experiences at university if you have any unusual ones to share.  Don’t forget: inspiration walks around you every day, not matter where you go.  (It’s just a little more obvious – and more strange – on a college campus.)

Why I Blog

I’ve been a blogger for over two years now.  I have nearly 100 followers (love you guys!) and I’ve written 119 posts.  So I thought that now would be a good time to share the why behind this blog.

Here’s four things I love about this blog:

1. Getting to talk about writing

I don’t actually talk about writing with my friends that much.  It feels a bit personal, complicated, messy.  It’s just… not something I talk about with people that much.  And I don’t currently have any writer friends in “real life.”  So it’s fun to get to share things that I learn about writing with people who want to hear them.  It’s fun to get to shout to the world that I discovered how the heck to write setting, or what close POV really means. (Non-writers just don’t get it, do they?)

2. Instantly Rewarding

When I write a novel, I spend months or years writing and editing before anyone else reads it.  It’s a really long process, and while the writing itself is enough of a reward, it takes forever and a day before my writing is ready to be shared.

But with blogging, it’s so fun to see people enjoying my thoughts and words soon after they’re written.  I love posting something right before going to bed, and then waking up in the morning to an inbox full of emails saying “so-and-so liked your post.”  It’s wonderful to know that people are enjoying things I have to say.  It makes me feel like my voice matters.

3. Inspires me to keep writing

I’m not quite sure how this works, but keeping a writing blog motivates me to keep writing novels.  When I write blog posts, it’s a reminder to myself that I am a writer.  I have stories to tell.  I have a voice.  I have stories burning inside me.  Sometimes I’ll even write lil pep talks to myself in my blog posts, and that’s such a powerful thing to do.

4. Community

I can’t tell you how cool it is to find like-minded people who understand.  You folks know the joys and struggles of writing.  You know the pain of writer’s block and the joy of finishing a draft.  I love being connected to people who understand.  And when you beautiful folks comment on my blog posts and share your thoughts?  You give me hope and happiness.

So.  Thank you, readers.  Thank you, followers.  Thank you to the people who like and comment and share.  You help keep me motivated and positive.  You help me be a better writer.

That’s why I blog.  For you.

Caring for the Writer Inside, Part 1

This is part 1 of a short Writerly Care series I’m starting.  It’s not exactly writing advice, more like advice on being a writer and taking care of the artist within.

Today’s topic: consume good art.

Here’s one of my favorite quotes.

time spent reading.jpg

I’m sure some of you have heard this before, or are at least familiar with the idea that good writers read a ton.  And I agree – I definitely feel like reading fuels me to write. Reading good books (and sometimes bad ones) makes me want to write good books.

BUT.  I also find inspiration in so many other things.

This is the best way I can describe it: seeing good art makes me want to create art.

I love following YouTubers who create things for a living.  I love following artists on Instagram who post their drawings and share their light.  I love songs that blend lyrics and rhythm and notes to make something beautiful and new.

So, this is your friendly reminder that you as a writer need to consume good art.  I have some suggestions if you’re feeling a deficit in your art diet:

1. Poetry

There’s something delightful about poetry.  It’s loud and soft, small and potent.  The words pack so much power in so little space.  I recently discovered Mary Oliver, and I really like her poetry.  I’m sure you’re familiar with some other new poets that are getting a lot of hype.  Go read the poetry, soak in the words, bask in the strength of them.

lin being excited.gif

2. Music

Browse through Spotify, click around on YouTube, listen to a new genre.  I’ve found that I have a constant need for new music, and it’s part of how I stay inspired.  Expand your horizons.  Try musicals, or soundtrack music, or indie, or country, or rap, or vidoegame music.  Let good music drive you to write good stories.

3. Old Favorites

I re-watched Fellowship of the Ring with a friend last night, and I feel like a new human. The Lord of the Rings trilogy is my favorite movies of all time.  Watching one of these again reminded me just how much stories matter, and how much they mean to people. These movies motivate me to keep telling my stories.

so there I was

Maybe you don’t have time for a 4-hour movie with a friend.  That’s okay; listen to a 4-minute old favorite song that makes you fall in love with being an artist.  Read a chapter from a favorite book to remind yourself why you’re a story-teller.

Consume good art.  Let it fill your soul so that it spills out onto the page when you write.  Take inspiration from the creators and writers and artists all around you.  Find things that you love and enjoy them, and then go create things to share with the world.

And if you need some suggestions to get you started, here’s some things I’ve been enjoying lately:

Music: Dear Evan Hansen (a new musical), A Playlist of My Favorite Soft/Chill Music, Some of My Favorite Instrumental Music

YouTubers (also musicians): Tessa Violet, Dodie ClarkPeter Hollens, Rusty Clanton

Instagramers: Mari Andrew (adorable artist), Inspired to Write (bestest human ever)

Let me know in comments if you experience this too – where seeing some great piece of art makes you want to create as well.  Also, let me know if you’ve found some great music/ movies/ art recently, or what you’re enjoying that inspires you.  Do you have artists you look up to?  Do you have a favorite movie that moves you to tears?  Share your thoughts.