Resources for Writers
Ample helpful resources about the craft and business of writing, and about the writing life.
Resources for Writers
I get great questions from writers every day, and over time have pulled together a number of resources that I end up referring people to all the time (I update these regularly, too). I hope these resources will be of value for you. Enjoy, and alert your writing friends by sharing (social media links on left side of this page).
Jump directly to the resources that interest you most by clicking on the topic header below:
Recommended Craft Books (All book links open in new window.)
- On Revision & Self-Editing
- Reference Books
- On Sentences
- On the Craft of Writing Fiction
- On the Craft of Writing Nonfiction
- Inspiring Books about Writing and Writers
Free Monthly Revision Tips, Tools & Resources
Grammar & Writing Assistance
Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing - I absolutely adore Grammar Girl, who's also known as Mignon Fogarty. Hardly a day goes by when I don't refer someone to a specific page of her incredibly helpful grammar tips, or look something up myself. She makes me look good because if I'm in doubt when responding to a query, she's not! Have a question about grammar? Grammar Girl has an answer that will be easy to absorb thanks to her fun, example-laden and plain English explanations.
The Purdue Online Writing Lab - This site is chock full of great information about writing. Like Grammar Girl, the OWL has a lot of great information about grammar, but also goes well beyond grammar to look at the writing process, mechanics, punctuation, research, ESL and a whole host of topics related to academic writing. Each section provides numerous helpful examples, which make learning easy.
Guide to Grammar and Writing - Another great resource, from Lucy Benton at ProWritingPartner. Grammar myths, usage guides, style guides, thesauruses and dictionaries, English for non-native English speakers.
Great List of Grammar Guides - A long list of different grammar guides: quick guides, usage guides, thesauruses (thesauri) & dictionaries, "rules" that aren't, classic style guide, science and technical writing guides and ESL.
Articles about the Craft of Writing
On Adverbs and Adjectives
Why I Am Proudly, Strongly, and Happily in Favor of Adverbs, by Lily Rothman, The Atlantic
I n Defense of Purple Prose, by Anne E.G. Nydum
How to Weave Backstory Into Your Novel, by Brian Klems
How to Weave in Backstory to Reveal Character, by Rachel Ballon
Weaving It In: Backstory in Fiction, by C.S. Lakin
On Commas - One Common Error
Commas with Essential and Nonessential Clauses, from Waylink English
Real People, Real Characters: The WHO of Memoir, by Michelle Richmond
Writing Beyond Good: Crafting Memorable Characters, by Q Lindsey Barrett
Psychic Distance: What It Is and How to Use It, by Emma Darwin
Writing Powerful Descriptions, by Jon Gingerich
Description, by Abby Geni
Seven Keys to Writing Good Dialogue, by Nathan Bransford
He Said, She Said: Dialog Tags and Using Them Effectively, by Dawn Boeder Johnson at Scribophile
Said-Bookisms, the Obscure Sin that Can Doom a Manuscript, by D.B. Jackson
Talk It Out: How to Punctuate Dialogue in Your Prose, by Taylor Houston
Can You Make Up Dialogue In Memoirs Or Nonfiction Books? by Writer's Relief
The Art of the Last Line: How to Find Your Story’s Ending, from NY Book Editors
6 Clever Ways To Achieve The Perfect Ending To Your Story, by Writer's Edit
On Family in Memoir
How to Write About Family in a Memoir, by Brian Klems
But Will They Love Me When It’s Done? Writing about Family in Memoir, by Laurie Hertzel
On First Sentences
Why Stephen King Spends 'Months and Even Years' Writing Opening Sentences, by Joe Fassler, The Atlantic
On Flashbacks in Fiction
Using Flashbacks in Fiction, by Pearl Luke
Three Tips for Writing Successful Flashbacks, by Nancy Kress
How to Write a Flashback Scene: 7 Key Steps, from Now Novel
On Handwriting (versus typing)
On Past and Present Tense
Past and Present tense: which, why, when and how, by Emma Darwin
Plot Development, from Texas A&M University
Plot, Structure & Theme in Memoir, from Write Nonfiction Now
On Point of View
Point of View, from Literary Devices
Head-Hopping Gives Readers Whiplash, by Beth HIll
Sentence-level Repetition: When It Works, When It Doesn’t, and Why It Matters, from the Center for Writing and Speaking at Whitman College
On Showing and Telling
On Showing and Telling: The Basics, by Emma Darwin, at This Itch of Writing
Theme, from Literary Devices
What is Writer's Voice, by Rachelle Gardner
Ten Steps to Finding Your Writer's Voice, by Jeff Goins
Where to Find a Writing Conference, Workshop or Retreat
Fair Use & Copyright
When Do You Need to Secure Permissions, by Jane Friedman
What Every Writer Ought to Know about Fair Use and Copyright, by Joel Friedlander
When to Copyright Your E-Book, by Anita Lovett
Editing and Research Assistance
I'm Joan Dempsey, and I love working with writers!
For more than ten years now I've worked with a wide variety of writers on all kinds of projects. I focus on what's called developmental editing - I read your work with an eye towards what's working well and what can be improved, and I provide you with specific, detailed guidance about what you need to learn or do to take your writing to the next level. I provide both big picture and sentence-level edits and suggestions to help you create your best work. Only $4.25 per page.
Susan T. Landry has been a professional medical manuscript editor for more than 25 years, but she also has a parallel vocation as a creative writing copy editor, which she loves (she herself is a writer of memoir and poetry). Susan thinks of herself as the cleanup guy - when the fun and glamorous part is over for you, she comes in with her dustpan and brush to tidy up. She reads for clarity, grammar, spelling, rhythmic flow, repetition, publication style and anything else that catches her eye out of concern that it might make your readers pause. She prefers to do a page or two of a sample edit of any given work, and then negotiate a fee with you for the full manuscript. She'd be happy to supply contact information for references.
Scott Lawson is an experienced paralegal I have happily worked with several times now to get crucial legal information for my novel-in-progress. Need to know what the punishment is for a particular crime in a particular state? Scott's your guy! Need to know if your legal details are plausible or accurate? Get in touch with Scott. Professional, efficient, personable and reliable, he'll not only give you what you need, but he'll present what you need in easily understandable ways, and often give you relevant information you didn't even know to ask for. Scott enjoys working with writers! Tell him I sent you!
On Publishing, Book Proposals, Literary Agents, Query Letters & the Dreaded Novel Synopsis
Jane Friedman - Whatever you need to know about publishing your writing, Jane Friedman is the go to experienced professional. Here are a few articles I routinely refer people to, but do check out her full website, which contains vastly useful information:
- Start Here: How to Get Your Book Published - all about traditional publishing
- Start Here: How to Self-Publish Your Book - all about self-publishing (includes referrals to other helpful articles, too)
- Start Here: How to Write a Book Proposal - for all you nonfiction writers out there, here's what you need to know about writing the all-important book proposal
- Back to Basics: Writing a Novel Synopsis - yes, the dreaded synopsis - start here, buckle down, and write the darned thing
- How to Find a Literary Agent for Your Book - the nuts and bolts of what you need to know to find a literary agent
- The Complete Guide to Query Letters That Get Manuscript Requests - for fiction writers seeking literary agent representation
- The Complete Guide to Query Letters: Nonfiction Books - for nonfiction writers seeking literary agent representation
How to Write a Query Letter in 7 Steps—Plus an Infographic Checklist, by Martin Cavanaugh, @Reedsy. Terrific, step-by-step process for fiction writers.
Publishing 101 - Jane Friedman has also written a terrific, no nonsense, common sense and helpful guide for first time authors who need to learn about the overall world of publishing. She knows her stuff!
Green-Light Your Book: How Writers Can Succeed in the New Era of Publishing, by Brooke Warner
If you're trying to navigate your way around this new era of publishing, and trying to figure out whether to approach agents to go with a traditional publisher, go the self-publishing route or choose a hybrid publisher (which is what I did), this book is for you. Brooke Warner (my publisher at She Writes Press), knows her stuff, and tells it like it is in a refreshing, no nonesense style.
How to Find Out Where to Submit Your Work
Funds for Writers - C. Hope Clark provides writers with an incredible service. Visit Funds for Writers to learn about where to get writing grants, how to submit to current contests, where to find freelancing gigs, and so much more. If you're looking to get published, and to get paid for your work, you simply must know Funds for Writers. Subscribe to one of two newsletters to keep up with current opportunities.
Creative Writers Opportunities List - Don't let the somewhat strange header of the Creative Writers Opportunities List get in your way of joining this important Yahoo group. More fondly known as CRWROPPS, this is the list to be on to get regular updates about submissions opportunities. I've been on this list for many years, and tell people about it almost daily. If you're looking for places to submit, this is for you. (It's free, thanks to the incredible generosity of poet & editor Allison Joseph.) Sign up here.
New Pages - I've been referring people to New Pages since it was a wee website showcasing literary journals. Now - wow! NewPages.com is news, information, and guides to literary magazines, independent publishers, creative writing programs, alternative periodicals, indie bookstores, writing contests, and more. Great resource!
The Paris Review Interviews Online - You'll find a plethora of inspiring interviews with writers here, dating back to the 1950s. From Ralph Ellison and Dorothy Parker to Joy Williams and David Mitchell, The Paris Review has interviewed all the great literary writers.
Feel companioned, get inspired and get back to your own writing with renewed enthusiasm.
My First Time Video Series - Fabulous, short interviews with writers about their first publications. From the Paris Review.
Poets & Writers Daily News - If you want to know what's going on in the literary world, look no further than this. Every day, the good folks at Poets & Writers Magazine put out the daily news, which includes all kinds of links to interesting articles about writers and the writing life.
Brainpickings - be prepared to go down a lovely, thrilling rabbit hole when you visit this wonderland of literary delights, curated by Maria Popova, who gives her heart and soul - without direct compensation - to this amazing enterprise. Be a sport and donate to her once you've partaken of her wares. You won't be sorry.
Please note that I personally haven't used any of these tools, but I share them here because so many writers I work with do use them and find them useful; I'd feel remiss if I didn't list them. Their inclusion here is not an endorsement from me, nor do I receive any commission if you sign up with them.