Category Archives: Helpful sites

Helpful Writing Sites and Blog Posts October 2011

As it’s October, there will be a special NaNoWriMo section of links for those who will be participating in NaNoWriMo in a few days time. But first, a round up of the other helpful sites and blog posts from the last month:

Writing

Five Fun and Easy Ways to Lengthen Word Count

While some writers write long novels that ultimately need to be trimmed, if you’re anything like me and tend to write spare, sometimes you may find you fall short in the word count department. I have this problem with my current WIP and I found this post to be quite helpful. It suggests ways to lengthen your word count without adding unnecessary fluff or padding.

Your Formula for a Kick-A** Young Adult Heroine

These tips are drawn from a panel of authors who all have kick-butt heroines in their novels.

Revising

Editing Your MS in 30 Days or Less

Some tips from author Elana Johnson on how to edit your novel in a month. While the tips in the post are probably easier to achieve for those of us who don’t have children, they are invaluable tips none-the-less and can still help with editing your novel in a shorter amount of time.

The Twelve Steps I Followed to Format “My Cheeky Angel” for Kindle Direct Publishing

Although this post is primarily directed towards self-publishing authors, there are some valuable formatting tips for all writers to follow before submitting to agents/publishers to make your novel stand out as polished and professional.

10 Proofreading Tips to Ensure Your Self-Published Works are Flawless

This is another post that, although it’s written for self-publishers, can just as easily be used by all writers. A great checklist to keep in mind when revising.

Picture Books

Only One Published Book? Aaack!

What picture book writers can do on library/school visits if they only have one published book.

Do You Want to Write Books for Children?

This post covers some common misconceptions and mistakes made by picture book writers and how you can fix/avoid them.

Marketing

Tips on Marketing Your Novel

Literary agent Natalie Fischer shares her best tips on marketing your novel, from the pre-sale phase (before you even sign a publisher) right through to the book release. Perfect for any writer at any stage of the process.

Eleven Deadly Sins of Online Promotion for Writers

Another one for writers in any stage of the process, including those who are seeking to attract an agent. 11 things you should never do when you’re promoting your writing online.

NaNoWriMo!

9 Ways to Prepare for the National Novel Writing Month

This would have to be the BEST post I’ve ever come across on preparing for NaNoWriMo. It doesn’t talk about outlines, but rather how to prepare yourself mentally and organise yourself and your life in preparation. It outlines 9 areas you may not have considered in the lead up to NaNoWriMo and provides questions to ask yourself to help get yourself prepared. It was written by 5-time NaNoWriMo-er and awesome writer/editor/publisher, Jodi Cleghorn.

5 tips for NaNoWriMo Success

Five quick tips for helping you achieve your NaNoWriMo goal.

NaNoWriMo Starts Right Here right Now

Some advice from a past NaNowriMo winners on how to get past the NaNoWriMo finish line.

My NaNoWriMo 2011 Tips

Some tips for succeeding at NaNoWriMo from a two-time NaNoWriMo winner. (I personally think the 1st tip is an especially important one to remember.)

For those who are participating in NaNoWriMo this year, good luck!

Helpful Writing Sites and Blog Post August/September 2011

As I didn’t post a Helpful Writing Sites post last month I’m combining my compilation of helpful links from both August and September into one post.

Writing

Identifying Your Fantasy Novel’s Subgenre

When querying your fantasy novel it’s best to be specific about your novel’s subgenre. This post gives a brief outline of each of the fantasy subgenres.

The Big Ol’ Genre Glossary

Taking it a step further than the above post, this post outlines all the various genres and their subgenres. A handy list to have when wanting to check which genre/subgenre your novel falls under.

En Dash vs. Em Dash

Not sure what the difference between them is? This posts helps clear it up.

There is a Learning Curve to Creating Ebooks

For those interested in self-publishing and creating your own ebooks, this post recommends two free programs you can use to convert your MS into ebook format.

Five Telltale Signs of an Amateur Writer

An acquiring editor tells how she can reject an MS in 8 seconds and lists the five telltale signs of an amateur writer.

10 Words Editors Hate

Be careful about using these ten words in your MS, as they may very well send your work to the ‘Do Not Publish’ pile. Some may surprise you.

Eight Reasons I Hate Your Book

There seem to be a few negative posts around lately, but helpful, none-the-less. In fact, I found this one to be VERY helpful. Freelance editor and agent intern, Cassandra Marshall, shares eight of the most annoying (and totally fixable) things she comes across in manuscripts. It helped me realise one of the biggest downfalls of my current WIP, it might help you with yours too.

10 Tips for Writing a Short Story

Short story writer, Amanda Lohrey, shares her tips for writing a first-rate short story.

Getting Your Children’s Book Published

A checklist of things you need to do when preparing to send your MS to publishers, specifically for children’s writers.

Besides Using Google, How Can I do Research For My Book?

Sometimes it can be hard to navigate Google to find the information you’re looking for. How can you be sure the information is accurate? This post has some great (and easy) tips on how to find accurate sources of information for your research.

14 Dos and Don’ts for Introducing Your Protagonist

Author Anne R. Allen gives a list of fourteen great points to take into consideration when introducing your story’s protagonist.

Querying/Submitting

Wherein I Answer an Awkward Question

A few months ago I wrote a post called Writers Beware. This post gives the same warning and similar advice to my post, but takes it a step further with some great information about vanity presses pretending to be traditional publishers.

The Biggest Submission Mistakes

Writers Relief interviewed a range of editors to find out what they considered to be the biggest submission mistakes.

Proper Manuscript Format

I’ve bookmarked this page. The post itself is presented as the manuscript would be formatted giving a visual example to go along with the explanation of how a manuscript should be properly formatted. This is especially helpful if a publisher/editor/agent does not have specific submission guidelines for manuscript format or requests standard manuscript format.

Motivation

You’re Kind of a Big Deal

Advice from an author who recently sold her book, and the long journey it took her to get there. She gives hope to those of us who are still hoping to get there some day.

Social Media

The Facebook Author Page: 10 Status Updates to Embrace, 10 to Avoid

Author and Novel Publicity president, Emlyn Chand, outlines the difference between Facebook page status updates that will engage and win you fans (and thus lead to book sales) and status updates that will annoy and drive away fans. In her words, “When it comes to self-promotion, less is more. If you promote yourself graciously, book sales will follow.”

5 Points to Ponder on Pottermore (for Writers)

A look at how writers can use J.K. Rowlings new Pottermore site as an example for creating an engaging website (even if you don’t have Ms. Rowlings budget).

Five Ways Authors Can Promote Books on Facebook

Tips for using your Facebook profile/page to promote your book (in a subtle way).

Book Promotion

Creating Effective Presentations for Schools

Some great tips from picture book author Tania McCartney on doing schools visits to promote your book, including how to keep your audience’s attention, taking age into account and what sort of content to include.

Just for Fun

A Day in the Life of a Writing Mum

If you’re a writing mum like me, I’m sure you will relate!

And one last link, because I just have to share…

You may have noticed a shiny new book cover on the sidebar of my blog for a soon-to-released anthology titled Eighty Nine (which includes my story ‘Eighteen for Life’). It’s a speculative fiction anthology embracing the year that was nineteen eighty nine. One of my fellow authors, Devin Watson, has created this little teaser trailer: Eighty Nine Book teaser trailer.

Helpful Writing Sites and Blog Posts July 2011

It’s been a quiet month here on the blog (due to my family being hit by some nasty illnesses), but I have still been collecting helpful writing sites and blog posts during July to share with you.

Writing

7 Things I’ve Learned So Far

A guest post by author Sydney Salter on seven things she’s learned on her writing journey so far. She has some great advice on rejection and criticism of your work.

How to Write with Kids at Home

As a mum with two young children at home I know how difficult it can be to find five minutes quiet time to get some writing done. This writer/mum offers some tips on keeping the kids occupied so you can write.

4 Writing Crutches That Insult a Reader’s Intelligence

Some great reminders for writers on writing crutches and how to avoid them. (Are you guilty of using too many adverbs or telling instead of showing?)

What Makes for a Great Thriller

Some tips from two thriller authors on the essential elements of a thriller.

Pitching/Queries

Why Pitches Fail

Three reasons why pitches fail.

Self-Publishing

Three Reasons to Self-Publish (and a big one not to!)

Advice for anyone considering self-publishing.

Social Media

What Social Media Stats Should You Include in Your Book Proposal

A look at blog stats agents and publishers deem relevant.

6 Secrets to Writing a Killer Author Bio

On our blogs, Twitter, guest posts, interviews, etc. it’s important to have an author bio. This post gives tips on writing an effective bio.

The 5 Biggest Mistakes Writers Make on their Websites

The five most common (and easily fixed) mistakes writers make on their website.

Helpful Writing Sites and Blog Posts June 2011

It’s time for my monthly round up of helpful writing sites and blog posts. All links will be added to the masterlist (link at top of blog).

Writing

Tips for Writing Picture Books

5 great tips for writers of picture books.

3 Signs You’re Writing a Condemned Novel

How to recognise problems in your manuscript and how to decide whether they are fixable or whether the novel needs to be put aside.

Have You Ever Heard the One About “Was”?

I’ll admit to being wary of using the word ‘was’ in my writing, though I’ve now come to be a little more accepting of it. Author Emma Darwin makes some good points about why ‘was’ isn’t as bad as a lot of writers are led to believe. She tells how often it isn’t the word ‘was’ that’s the problem and goes on to outline the underlying problems that are often blamed on ‘was’.

The Courage Not to Publish

While it takes courage for a writer to put his/her work out there to get published, this article talks about having the courage to realise your work may not be publishable and to hold back from publishing. It specifically targets writers who either think their writing doesn’t need fixing because they think an editor will sort it out, or those who want to self-publish after being rejected by traditional publishers.

Commonly Confused Words

You know those tricky words, like ‘lie’ and ‘lay’? This post clears up some of the confusion with commonly misused words.

The Truth About Passive Protagonists

This post outlines when it’s ok to have a passive protagonist and when it’s not.

The Single Most Powerful Writing Tool You’ll Ever See That Fits on One Page

A listing of everything you need to know about your story before you can successfully finish it. Written in the form of questions, the list covers the four parts of the story structure.

Social Media

5 Simple Ways to Make Your Blog More Visually Appealing to Readers

Tips for creating a blog with an appealing look and feel and how to avoid a poorly designed blog.

THE Facebook Cheat Sheet: 21 Sneaky Tactics to Generate a Buzz on Facebook

21 Tactics for getting people to ‘like’ your Facebook page.

The 6 P’s of YA Social Media

6 points YA writers should keep in mind to use Social Media effectively.

Just for Fun

The Seven Stages of Receiving Critique on a Manuscript

A funny (and true) evaluation of the stages a writer goes through after receiving a manuscript critique.

The Periodic Table of Storytelling

Based on the periodic table of elements, this table covers different aspects of storytelling, such as character archetypes and plot devices. A couple of my favourites: NEO (The Chosen One) and LOL (Evil laugh).

Writers Beware (Part 2)

In part 1 I talked about a situation where a writer had her book published, only to realise too late that the company was not a traditional publishing company, they were just posing as one. They played on the writer’s dream of being published to make money off her. As a result she ended up with a book that was poorly edited, unavailable in bookstores and locked into a contract so she can’t publish it with anyone else. It was left to her to market the book herself, meaning it was bought by family and friends, but no one else. Even if she worked up the courage to approach a bookstore herself, they probably wouldn’t stock it because a) it’s overpriced for a book by a first time author, b) the publishing company won’t accept refunds if the book doesn’t sell and c) the book is so poorly edited, people probably won’t buy it anyway (no matter how good the story is).

How can you avoid this situation?

You have to be savvy.

Google is your friend.

This is a good idea to do for any publisher. Google the publisher, skip past all the links for the publisher’s own website and see what other people have to say. You will quickly find out if the publisher is a reputable one and whether other writers have had good or bad experiences with them.

Get involved in writers’ circles/writers’ forums/writers on Twitter.

We writers can be isolated people, but the net has made it easy to connect with fellow writers. There are writers at all stages of the writing journey, and some of them are a great wealth of information. You will soon hear the dos and don’ts of the publishing and writing world when you’re connected to others who have been there before you. Some great people to follow on Twitter (because they always have their ear to the ground and post great links): Elizabeth S Craig and Jane Friedman.

Follow Agent/Publisher blogs or follow them on Twitter.

There are some fantastic literary agent and publisher blogs around and they’re worth following. They offer a wealth of knowledge on the ins and outs of the publishing industry. For example, Nathan Bransford’s blog is packed full of great information on both writing and the publishing industry.

Read contracts carefully.

This is an important one. Know what you are signing before you sign it. This is where having a literary agent represent you can be of great benefit because they know exactly what to look for in a publishing contract and can negotiate terms with the publisher for you. Literary agents cost nothing, unlike lawyers, but you need to query them with your manuscript the same way you would with a publisher. It’s better to query agents first, before publishers, if possible. But if your manuscript has already been accepted by a publisher, you can still query agents and mention in your query letter that a publisher has already acquired it. Otherwise, you can get a lawyer/solicitor to look over the contract for you, but it will cost money and often they don’t have as much knowledge about the specifics of publishing contracts.

What can I do to get the attention of a genuine publisher?

The most important thing to do is to keep improving your craft. The second most important thing is to become knowledgeable about the industry.

Keep Writing.

The best way to improve is to keep writing. I can’t remember who said it, but it has been said that to be a good writer, you must first write one million bad words. Quite often the first novel you write won’t ever be published. It’s sad, but true. But every word is contributing to you becoming a better writer. And one day you’ll look back on that first novel and think, ‘I can’t believe how bad it was! Why did I ever think it would get published?’

Join a critique group/Get a critique partner

Remember my story in part 1 about the author not letting anyone see their work before sending it out to publishers? He/she thought it was the smart thing to do, but there is benefit in letting others see your work before you send it out – the biggest benefit being a better novel. At some stage you need to get over your fear that other writers are out to steal your ideas. The good thing about critique groups and critique partners is you have to trust each other. You won’t steal their ideas and they won’t steal yours. Once you find a critique partner you feel comfortable with, the next hurdle is to be able to take their critique. This is a hard one. You will feel hurt. You will feel indignant (what does she mean my character is flat!). But once you get over that, you may find she’s right. Once you learn to accept your novel is not perfect and there’s room for improvement, you will be on your way to having a polished novel.

Use writing resources available to you

As I mentioned, following agent/ publisher blogs and being involved with other writers on forums/Twitter are great ways to stay informed. There are a lot of great writing resources out there, and fellow writers are only too happy to share, and so are agents and publishers. There are some great writer blogs out there too. A good place to start is Barry Lyga’s blog, he has a plethora of topics for helping to improve all areas of your writing. Check out some writing books too, like Stephen King’s ‘On Writing’.

Research the industry

Did you know if you live in the US or you intend to get your book published in the US it is a good idea to first seek a literary agent? (A good literary agent won’t charge you fees, they make their money when the book sells.) In some other countries, such as Australia, literary agents are less common and a lot of publishers are still happy to accept unsolicited (eg: unagented) submissions. Do you know which agent/publisher is most suitable for your book? You don’t want to waste time sending a fantasy novel to someone who only takes on non-fiction work. Do you know if the publisher/agent you are querying has a good reputation? ALWAYS DO YOUR RESEARCH.

Follow guidelines

Publishers and agents have guidelines for a reason, so follow them. Some publishers/agents will reject your work without even reading it if you haven’t followed guidelines.

And because someone asked…

In my comments on part 1, someone asked about how to know if a literary agent is genuine. The points I’ve made about publishing companies can equally be applied to agents. Use google, research before you query, follow writers/agents on Twitter, join writing forums (many have sections on agents/the publishing industry). And if an agent wants you to pay fees to represent you, then he/she is probably not a genuine literary agent.

Helpful Writing Sites and Blog Posts May 2011

It’s time for my monthly round up of helpful writing sites and blog posts. All links will be added to the masterlist (link at top of blog).

Writing

50 Books That Will Make You a Better Writer

A list of 50 of the best writing books, from Stephen King’s On Writing to Stunk and White’s The Element of Style.

Need Some Bling for Your Title? Try PRISM

Five elements to keep in mind when brainstorming an effective title for your novel.

How to Write the Ending of Your Novel

Author Joanna Penn gives tips on writing the ending of your novel so the reader will finish the book wanting to buy your next novel.

How to Write (a Book). A Wee Rant

12 points on how to write. No, this isn’t about the technicalities of writing, or plot, it’s about sitting your butt down and actually putting words on a page. One of my favourite lines, “No wonder we all have writer’s block. We’re not even writing. Plumbers don’t have plumber’s block, do they? NO, THEY GET ON THE FLOOR AND CLEAR OUT THE WINDEX AND EVIDENCE OF MOUSE POOP UNDER THE SINK AND GET TO PLUMBING.”

The Only 12 1/2 Writing Rules You’ll Ever Need

A great motivational poster for writers with some great tips.

Ponder, Polish, Perfect: How to Successfully Revise

Literary Agent Natalie Fischer goes over some ideas to help you ‘re-envision’ your work.

Wordcount Dracula

Literary agent Jennifer Laughran (aka literaticat) has put together a very comprhensive post on word counts in kidlit (PBs through YA) including examples of published books.

Picture Book Construction: Know Your Layout

A must read post for picture book writers on picture book layout and having an awareness of page breaks.

16 Manuscript Format Guidelines

Getting ready to send of your manuscript to a publisher and all the guidelines say are, ‘Standard Manuscript Format’ and you’re not sure what that means? This helpful post outlines what standard manuscript formatting entails. A couple of the points are a little outdated, so I would also suggest scrolling down through the comments that correct them. And in particular have a look at the comment by NEB which is quite informative.

Pitching

Hook ‘Em In (in three seconds or less)

Literary agent Natalie Fischer gives some helpful hook tips.

Marketing

The Seven Book Marketing Mistakes That Authors Make

Want your book to sell? Make sure you’re not making these marketing mistakes. A couple of these are more applicable to self-published authors, but some of them are applicable to all authors.

5 Questions to Ask Yourself After Hearing: We Can’t Sell Enough to Justify Publishing It

Some tips on what to do next. I’ve put this under the heading of marketing because in most part the tips relate to making your book more marketable or building your author platform.

Blogging

Formatting Posts and Pages

Geared towards WordPress users, but helpful to other blogging platform users too, this post outlines the golden rule for formatting your blog posts to make them easier for your readers to read (hence keeping their attention).

Blog Law – Is Your Giveaway Legal?

Many writers I know do giveaways/ have competitions on their blogs. But are those giveaways/competitions legal? An attorney and blogger provides information on running blog giveaways in simple/easy to understand terms.

Helpful Writing Sites and Blog Posts March 2011

I’m excited this month to introduce a new addition to my blog. If you look up at the tabs above you will see a new one titled, ‘Helpful Writing Sites and Blog Posts Masterlist’. In this master list I have gathered all the links from all the past editions of ‘Helpful Writing Sites and Blog Posts’ into one place. This way you won’t have to go searching through all the past editions to find the link you’re looking for. To make it even easier, I’ve put the links under headings, such as: ‘dialogue’, ‘openings’ and ‘queries’, so if you’re looking for information on query writing, go to the ‘queries’ section or if you want a stronger opening, go to the ‘openings’ section. From now on, whenever I do one of these monthly posts, the links will get added to the master list.

Now, onto this month’s edition:

Writing

How to Get Published: A Flowchart

A great flowchart (and checklist) on the writing process and a great way to know if you’re ready to query.

My Writing Success: The ONE Thing That Helped Me Most

Author Jody Hedlund explains the one specific thing that helped her most on her journey towards writing success.

On Story Openings

Using their soon-to-be-published anthology of stories as examples, The Australian Literature Review outlines the elements of effective story opening lines.

Story Skeletons: Teaching Plot Structure with Picture Books

Although this post is meant to be a teaching tool for young readers/writers in the classroom, it’s a great post for writers of picture books as well. It focuses on the basic structures used in picture story books and includes examples of each structure.

Where Should a Second Chapter Start?

There’s always a big focus for writers on getting that first chapter perfect, but what about chapter two? This post looks at building a strong second chapter.

Five Ways to Show Emotion in Your Writing

Based on the book From Where You Dream: The Process of Writing Fiction by Robert Olen Butler, this post looks at expressing emotion in your writing with a focus on showing vs telling.

Genre Novels – Word Count Rules, Subgenres, and Guidelines for Getting Your Book Published

A short guide to word count rules and subgenres for the various genres (fantasy, romance, historical, mystery, thriller, horror, YA, and Western).

Ten Mistakes Writers Don’t See (But Can Easily Fix When They Do)

Before you submit your work, double-check to make sure you haven’t made any of these mistakes that are easy to fix. (Sometimes this is where a critique partner can come in handy.)

NOTE: For number one, I find Wordle is a helpful website for weeding out crutch words. For number nine, reading aloud is a great way to pick up on awkward phrasing.

The Doctor is in the House – Novel Diagnostics

An exploration of common problems found in the beginning of a manuscript that can be an indicator of problems in the rest of the manuscript.

Queries/Pitches

The Twitter Query

A look at how to write an effective query in only 140 characters.

Rites of Submission: Cover Letters and Query Letters

This article includes two sample letters: an example of what not to do (including common mistakes) and a successful letter.

How I Got My Agent (Part 1: The Parts of a Good Query)

Author Susan Dennard shares advice on writing a good query letter, using her own successful query letter as an example.

Synopsis

How to Write a 1 Page Synopsis

A break down of the key elements needed for a one page synopsis. Includes worksheet.

Motivation

On Sticking With It

A reminder from author/agent Mandy Hubbard that is hard to become published, and why it is important to stick to it and not give up.

Social Media

Twitter Hashtags for Writers

Using these writer hashtags on Twitter is a great way to meet fellow writers. A comprehensive list of writer hashtags, including a schedule of writer chats on Twitter.

8 Sentence to Immediately Cut From Your Twitter

These 8 bio mistakes may be costing you followers and you may want to avoid them. Includes two things you may want to include instead.

Blogging Tips: Tips for Increasing Your Followers and/or Subscribers

Rachael Harrie has some great simple tips for building up a following on your writing blog.

Facebook for Authors: How to Get Started

Agent Nathan Bransford gives some helpful tips on starting up a Facebook author page.

For Fun

9 Things Everyone Needs to Know About Writers.

Very funny and very true. Pass this list on to all your non-writing friends.

Speaking of Facebook author pages, I’ve just started one of my own. You can find it here: http://www.facebook.com/JoHartAuthor or on the Facebook link on the sidebar of this blog.

5 Things I’ve Learned About Writing Query Letters

I recently decided to enter ABNA (Amazon’s Breakthrough Novel Awards) as a test to see if I could get past the pitch round. I’ve written and rewritten my pitch/query dozens of times, but still wasn’t sure if I was hitting the mark. I didn’t make it through the pitch round, and this confirmed for me that I need to work more on my pitching skills before I start querying my MS. Yesterday I wrote and rewrote my pitch a dozen more times. I read blog after blog on writing queries. Then I rewrote again. I’m still not sure if it’s there yet. I’m letting it sit for a few days now before I go back to it. But after reading so much information on queries, I thought I would share some of the most important things I’ve learned about writing queries – not just yesterday, but since I first started researching queries.

1. Make sure you include both the TITLE and WORD COUNT for your MS.

2. You need to include WHAT YOUR PROTAGONIST WANTS, WHAT IS PREVENTING THEM FROM ACHIEVING IT and WHAT IS AT STAKE IF THEY FAIL.

3. Keep your query BRIEF and CONCISE – don’t ramble or try to include every single plot point. 1 – 2 paragraphs is sufficient for describing your MS. Try to keep it under 250 words.

4. In your bio paragraph only include information relevant to writing or your subject area. Include relevant publishing credits and writing associations you are a member of. Don’t include how many dogs you own or that writing competition you won when you were twelve.

5. ALWAYS CHECK SUBMISSION GUIDELINES! I made this red, because most agents will tell you it’s their biggest pet peeve when writers don’t check guidelines before submitting. Make sure you spell the agent/editor’s name right. Make sure the agent/publishing house actually accepts submissions in your genre.

If you’re looking for some GREAT SITES ON QUERIES, here are some of the best I’ve come across:

Query Shark

How To Write A Query Letter

How I Got My Agent (The Parts of a Good Query)

Cover Letters and Query Letters

10 Common Query Mistakes

Checklist for Submitting

Some GREAT QUERY HASHTAGS to follow on Twitter:

#queries

#queryfest

#querychat

And finally, if you head over to Write on Con they have some great query critique competitions running at the moment. All you have to do is comment on the prize you want and you could win a query critique for your YA, MG or PB manuscript.

Helpful Writing Sites & Blog Posts February 2011 Edition

Before I do this month’s roundup of helpful writing sites and blog posts, I just want to send out my thoughts and prayers to those in New Zealand affected by the earthquake. If you wish to donate to the New Zealand Red Cross to help out those affected, here is a link: New Zealand Red Cross

Onto the most helpful sites and posts I’ve come across this month:

Writing

Punctuation Made Easy

This is by far the best site on punctuation I’ve found. It covers colons, semicolons, commas, dashes and apostrophes. It is very straightforward and clear and makes understanding how to use punctuation very easy. I always thought I was good at punctuation, but reading so many complicated posts on punctuation on the internet has often left me confused on whether I’m doing it right. This site is now my go to site when I need clarity.

The Very Basics: Ten Things All Writers Need To Do

Ten things writers should do if they want a shot at getting published.

Opening No Nos

Killzone author James Scott Bell outlines opening chapter no nos based on statements by literary agents.

Five Tips for Your First Five Pages

From things you shouldn’t do in your opening to things you should do.

Back to Basics – Dialog

This post explains the difference between a conversation and dialogue.

8 Ways to Pile on the Fear in Your Horror Fiction

Great post for horror writers looking for ways to amp up the fear factor in their writing.

The Power of Touch

A look at the way J.K. Rowling uses touch in the Harry Potter series as a way of showing emotion, rather than telling.

Creating a Magic System

A great post for fantasy writers on creating a magic system that fits best with the world in your novel.

Lovable and Admirable Characters

We all want to create characters our readers will want to read more about. Author Denise Jaden shares some advice she received about qualities your main character should have to ensure he/she is engaging and lovable.

How to Get the Biggest Bang for Your Plot Point

This post outlines where your main plot points occur in your manuscript and what you should be doing at these points to create a deeper connection with your reader.

Tightening Your (Manuscript’s) Belt

A checklist for eliminating unnecessary prose.

7 Ways Glee Can Improve Your Fiction Writing

Joanna Penn uses the popular TV show ‘Glee’ as a metaphor for ways to improve your writing.

Queries

How to Write a Bio for Your Query

Dot point list of what to include and also includes an example of what to do if you have no writing credentials.

What Your Query Says About Your Book

Your query letter is your first impression of your manuscript. This post tells you how much an agent can tell about your manuscript just by reading your query letter.

Query Me Crazy

Corinne Jackson shares an original query letter she wrote that kept getting rejected, tips she received from a literary agent to improve the query and a revised query she wrote using the tips from the agent that resulted in requests for  partials and fulls.

Just for Fun

The 46 Stages of Twitter

For anyone on Twitter, you’ll be able to relate to these ‘stages’.

Helpful Writing Sites & Blog Posts January 2011

The first helpful writing sites blog post for the year. I’ve come across quite a few good ones this month.

Writing Advice

Writing in the Age of Distraction

Tips on how to balance writing with social media/the internet. What I most like about this post is that Cory Doctorow outlines how the internet has benefited his writing as much as it’s been a distraction and that there can be balance – you don’t have to black-ban yourself from the internet to get writing done.

Back Story and Exposition

Brooke Johnson talks about mastering the skills of back story and exposition without resorting to the dreaded ‘info-dump’.

How to Write Intriguing Male and Female Characters

A post on how understanding gender differences can improve your writing in any genre.

Want to Get High (Concept)?

A post explaining what makes a story ‘high concept’.

The Increasing Importance of the First Chapter

Author Jody Hedlund explains why the first chapter is so important. She also includes a link to a post on ‘Potential First Chapter Problems’.

100 Stories for Queensland Update

While the submissions for the 100 Stories for Queensland Anthology closes today (there’s still just over 12 hours left to submit – it’s for a great cause), this post is worth reading if you are a short story writer. Scroll down the page a little and Nick Daw gives some great advice on writing short stories.

Queries

Is the Query System Dying?

Author Jody Hedlund talks about query statistics and how you can improve your chances of getting an agent.

The Difference Between ‘Pitch’ and ‘Query’

Query Shark, Janet Reid, outlines the difference between giving a verbal pitch to an agent and writing a query.

Your Professional Bio: Query Letter and Cover Letter Tips for Writers

As part of a query or cover letter, writers are asked to include a bio paragraph. This post outlines the things you should and shouldn’t include in your bio paragraph, and what to do if you have no writing credentials.

The Biggest Mistakes Writers Make When Querying Literary Agents

This is a long post, but well worth reading. J.M. Tohline e-mailed 100 literary agents and asked them the same question, “What is the single biggest mistake writers make when querying you?” This post looks at the answers received from these agents, including some of the detail agents went into when answering.

Synopses

How to Write a Synopsis for Your Novel

7 steps to writing an effective synopsis.  This post gives advice on how to avoid ending up with a boring summary of your story (‘and then this happened and then that happened’), and tells you how you can include the emotional twists and turns that make your story interesting.

Manuscript Submission

Checklist for Submission

This truly awesome checklist has been compiled by an editor/publisher. The comprehensive checklist includes everything you need to remember when submitting your manuscript. It even includes a handy printable version with check boxes.

Formatting Your Manuscript – The Silent Scream

All the things you can do to ‘keep your editor’s hair from turning white’.

*image by nuttakit