To writers of all genres, experience, age, and skill:
My hope is that this website will be a continually developing resource for you as you hone your craft. I thoroughly believe in the value of sharing resources and being a part of the larger writing community.
Below, I’ve collected a number of resources, websites, and tools that may be useful to you. As many veteran authors have said before me, take what is helpful, and leave what is not. Only you will be able to determine what works best for you as a writer.
Everything I’ve used and found remotely helpful is linked below for your use, sorted by function and format. I will continue to add to this list as I unearth additional resources. Your suggestions and additions are always welcome, but please note that I will not feature anything that I have not personally tried. I have also personally paid for all services with an associated cost, and I have received no incentives for listing a resource here. Resources with an associated fee are noted with a dollar sign ($).
Brandon Sanderson’s 318R Lecture Series from BYU is hand’s down the best resource I have found thus far. If, like me, you did not study English lit/creative writing in college, or if you would like a genre-specific perspective, Brandon is an excellent instructor. He walks through character development, world building, plotting, dialogue, the business of writing, and much more in a way that is accessible and useful for all writers, regardless of style or preferences. Offering a variety of tools and applications for each topic, Brandon’s lectures are the raw filmed footage of his class at BYU along with the students, complete with Q&A. As a bonus, he is geeky and hilarious, and I walked away from every lecture with some laughs in addition to great tools to propel me forward on my WIP.
I have no idea how long this lecture series will be available on YouTube, but let’s just assume and pray that it is eternal in its availability on the web.
Scrivener, available for Windows and Mac, is a writer’s best friend. Yes, it costs money ($45 last time I checked). Yes, it’s a little bit of a beast to learn, via the world’s longest and driest interactive tutorial. But it is absolutely and totally worth it. The features are incredible, and seemingly endless. You can keep your research, character outlines, and plotting notecards all in one place next to your manuscript, and the split screen view allows you to see multiple documents at once. They offer a free 30-day trial (30 days of actual use, not 30 calendar days!) -- give it a shot and see if it is a good fit for your needs. ($$$)
Google Drive is still an essential tool for me, even though I use Scrivener for my individual projects. This is a great free option for those of you who aren’t into Scrivener’s complexity, or don’t have the budget at the moment. Outside of those individual projects, this is where my “writing stuff” is housed: I draft preliminary world maps in Google Drawings (Scrivener doesn’t support image editing), store my list of brainstormed stories, track my writing expenses, list writing resources, and keep important notes and tips from writing resources. Because all of those items are stored in a cloud drive, I have all of my resources at my fingertips from any computer, tablet, or phone.
Writing Excuses is a weekly 15-minute podcast featuring Brandon Sanderson, Mary Robinette Kowal, Howard Tayler, Dan Wells, and a bunch of guests from the writing community. Start with episode 10.1 (“Seriously, where do you get your ideas?”) and enjoy this fun, concise podcast that is also packed with good advice and excellent practical application exercises. Beginning with episode 10.1, the podcast is structured in a master class format. Unlike many other podcasts I've tried, they manage to stay relatively on topic for each episode due to the restricted time for each session. They also offer an annual in-person writing retreat that sounds absolutely incredible, though I have yet to try it out for myself.
Gleeo Time Tracker is an incredible app (only available through the Google store) to help you track your time. As a full-time writer juggling multiple projects, it is important that I have a way to log my time for my own goals, as well as for my freelance projects. Gleeo allows you to set up multiple projects with tasks nested inside of each project. When you want to track time, you simply click the "Play" button next the relevant task, and "Stop" when you're finished. Entries can be edited or added later if you mess up, data can be exported for analysis, and multiple tasks/projects can be running simultaneously. Particularly in the planning stages of a novel, I find it helpful to track my time so that I have a more satisfying sense of accomplishment in an otherwise ambiguous/nebulous stage of writing.
Passion Planner is a thoughtful, well-designed, customizable annual planner that helps you bring your goals to fruition. The planner walks you through the process of setting annual goals, and translating those into monthly and weekly action items. I use my passion planner to track my weekly and monthly goals for writing, reading, blogging, and listening to writing podcasts. There is a lot of open space to use as you choose, but there is still enough structured space/instruction to help you stay focused. ($$$)
Miscellaneous Web-Based Resources
Goodreads is something you may already be familiar with -- if not, your mind is about to be blown! This is the social media site for readers (and authors). The website is a little clunky, but provides a place to keep all of your reading lists via "virtual bookshelves." You can rate books you've read, keep lists of books you still want to read, and sort in any other way you'd like. I keep an additional list of books that I want to purchase in the future. You can read reviews, submit your own reviews, and exchange book recommendations with friends. Access is easy by linking Google+ or Facebook.
Ambient Mixer might be useless for some of you. I can’t work in silence, but also can’t work with song lyrics playing over the radio -- I find this website extremely useful in “setting the audio scene” while I write. There are a huge number of searchable audio landscapes available at no cost to you, such as the “Gryffindor Common Room”: roaring fire, distance chatter, etc. You can adjust the levels and channels of existing landscapes, or create your own, and the audio will run on loop as long as you need it to. No ads, no interruptions.
Ninja Writers is a large, international Facebook group open to writers of all genres and experience levels. While some of the conversations can be a bit silly, the creator Shaunta provides a lot of helpful information and resources. Additionally, it is a great place to bounce ideas or questions off of other writers when you're home alone and it's raining and you get stuck on something small. Ninja Writers also provides a welcoming platform for encouragement, writing feedback, and general venting if you're looking for an outlet. The group is well-moderated, and trolls are kept in check. Request to join.
Writing Vibes is a Facebook group led by Parrish Wilson, a writer and writing coach who is passionate about enabling women to write. She creates a safe, low-risk space for women to discuss their writing fears and practical obstacles, in addition to offering regular workshops and live discussions. I'm new to this group, but so far, I'm definitely digging the vibes. Request to join.
Books on Writing/Creativity
On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King. I've yet to read a work of fiction by Stephen King, but this book is well worth an aspiring author's time. A thoughtful, honest, autobiographical look at King's life, along with lessons learned and advice to pass on to other writers. Just take my word for it -- this one is not to be missed.
Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott. This is a staple in the world of books written by writers about writing. Lamott's writing is honest, poignant, direct, and constructive. It is a raw, realistic window into the world of writing, and it will absolutely change the way you approach your work for the better. I guarantee it. This resource is not to be missed!
Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction by Jeff VanderMeer. Full disclosure: I haven't read Wonderbook cover-to-cover yet, but my initial "skim" was wonderful. This is an imaginative, colorful, bizarre approach to a writing guide, complete with all sorts of images and visual aids that are included to help inspire your creativity as you read. This is a dense work, though...not for the faint-hearted, or casual study. I quickly returned the book to the local library because I knew I would want to highlight/otherwise mark up my own purchased copy in the future. It's on my to-purchase list, and is definitely worth checking out.
Steal Like An Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative by Austin Kleon. There is beauty in the simplicity of this little book. A quick read, Kleon offers his personal insights and advice on being creative. While not new or terribly profound, I found the concise and clear presentation of the advice to be easy to digest, and helpful as foundational, basic reminders. I'd like to purchase this book to keep on my shelf and flip through periodically to ground my creative efforts. I have yet to explore the accompanying journal/workbook that is available. A good option when your brain is tired and you're feeling unproductive or hopeless.