Resources for Beginning Writers

As a beginning writer (“beginning” in terms of starting to prioritize my writing and learning to practice self-discipline), I have accumulated a pool of resources which have helped – and continue to help – me at various stages of my writing process.

This list is a conglomeration of online resources as well as tangible resources, both of which I find incredibly useful to keep focused and build my writing habit.

1. Gotham Writers’ Workshop: Writing Fiction

This book provides an invaluable introduction to the process of writing fiction. Each chapter is written by a different author and focuses on various elements of the craft of writing fiction such as plot, character, point-of-view, and dialogue.

An interesting addition to the book is the inclusion of Raymond Chandler’s short story “The Cathedral.” This story is referenced throughout the book and provides a framework for citing specific examples of each chapter’s focus. In addition to “The Cathedral,” the authors reference many, many other famous works to explain strategies for taking your writing to the next level.

2. Submittable.com

If you read my previous post about Submittable, you already know I am a huge fan of this submissions management platform. For writers who submit their work to various online magazines and literary journals (publications which may also appear in print), Submittable is an easy way to keep track of all of their submissions. In fact, many online publications require writers to submit their work solely through the system, as it allows them to keep track of submission pools with ease.

The “Discover” feature allows writers to view publications currently accepting submissions and clearly lists any associated submission fees and deadlines. Finding publications with an open submission window and which also accept your type of writing used to take hours, but Submittable lets you filter publications and find the right ones quickly.

3. Planners

Yes, writers are creative, but that doesn’t mean we can’t be organized. I faithfully use my planner to establish daily/weekly/monthly writing goals and record my progress towards meeting those goals. The link above is for the exact planner I use, although I picked mine up at Barnes and Noble a few weeks ago.

Of course, you will want to choose a planner that works for your lifestyle. I recommend the above planner because it has weekly and monthly views (each month is tabbed separately), and there is also a nice little bonus in the back which includes space for project planning and keeping lists of books to read.

If using a planner isn’t your typical style, don’t be put off by the idea if it sounds too intense. Goal-setting via a planner can be as simple as making a list in the morning of all the things you wish to accomplish on a certain day (ex. writing a blog post, finishing editing a story, writing for twenty minutes, etc.) and then reviewing the list that evening to see what actually got done. When I started doing this, I was shocked to see how many tasks I let fall to the wayside, which invariably snowballed into me failing at my ultimate goal, to write more. But now, I am able to hold myself accountable for completing the majority of my daily tasks.

4. Yoga

No, you haven’t accidentally crossed over into a fitness blog. Yoga with Adriene is a popular YouTube channel that lets you choose a specific lesson for that day. Yoga has, oddly, helped me focus on my writing by teaching me to relax my mind and body so that I am in a clear headspace to be creative. Something I bring up frequently when talking about my writing is how anxiety interferes with my creative writing process, and that is something that took me years to realize.

Taking an online yoga lesson like the one above is great for stretching your limbs after several hours of sitting. It also gives your mind a break from your work in progress while stilling those nagging worries that creep up as you’re trying to finish a story. I also enjoy going to an in-person yoga class in my town. If you’re new to yoga, keep in mind that often, these classes are only ten dollars or so and it isn’t unusual for several other yoga beginners to be there as well, so it is definitely work checking out.

5. Meetup.com

If you are looking to network with local writers in your area, Meetup is a fantastic way to do so. Other writers can serve as accountability partners or even writing resources themselves. It is free to create an account, and you can search for writing groups in your area. Many groups are free to join whereas some may have a small fee (about five dollars a month) to cover membership costs. Even the small town I live in has several Meetup groups nearby.

Most groups I’ve participated in have met at coffee shops and other lowkey places. You’ll want to choose a writing group that is your style, whether you’re looking solely for company while all working on your own projects or if you are looking for groups which critique one another’s work and offer suggestions in a more formal style.

These resources have all helped kickstart my writing this past year. I hope you find some of them useful in your own writing journey, too. Thanks for reading, and as always, feel free to leave a comment below to share your own resources that have guided your writing!

Advertisements

Living a Life of Writing

machine-writing-ballpoint-pen-writing-office-old

Contrary to the popular expression, time does not fly, especially as you get older. No, time is a twenty ton freight train tearing down a set of railroad tracks at an abominable rate. This past year, I realized the uncomfortable truth — that train is never going to slow down.

Over the past twelve months, in an effort to make the most of my time, I have made an active effort to live a life of writing. Prior to that time, I journaled extensively and wrote a few incomplete short stories here and there, never really having a focus on my writing goals. In late 2017, I realized that time was slipping away from me, and I was tired of putting writing on the back burner of my life. I schedule time for work, for friends, for families, but why wasn’t I devoting that energy to writing? I finally decided to buckle down to produce not only more writing, but writing with a purpose.

What did I do differently? The most important change I made was to stop viewing writing as a solo adventure and to instead, write in the company of friends. When I stopped thinking of writing as something I did holed up in my room, writing became more of a social activity during which I actually accomplished more than if I were working alone.

Some fellow writers and I formed a writing group in Asheville and met at least once a week to write in the same shared space. We met at coffee shops and spent a few hours working on our individual works. Each of us had our own aspirations for how we wanted to improve our writing. Some members wanted to complete novels, others wanted to create a more consistent writing habit. I made a choice to focus on actually completing pieces and submitting them to online magazines and literary journals, mostly using the site Submittable.

In mid-2018, I had a small success getting a creative non-fiction essay accepted by Hippocampus Magazine and published on its site. This publication, while seemingly minor to some, was a huge moment for me because it was the first time I had been paid for my writing. As of now, a few of my short fiction stories are still in pending status with other online publications.

As it is nearing the end of the year, I am considering ways that I can continue to focus on my writing in 2019 and to become more deeply involved in the writing world. So far, I have a few things on my list:

Begin (and maintain!) a blog

Starting a blog has been on my to-do list for some time now. I plan to use this format to share my personal writing journey with you, including sharing writing strategies that have worked for me and ways that I am working to be more connected to writing.

Enroll in an editing certification course

I stumbled across the Poynter ACES Certificate in Editing and am considering spending the $75 for a certificate. I am hoping a certification will help beef up my resumé and hopefully offer extra skills for, at the very least, editing my own work and possibly editing the work of others.

Devote one evening a week to writing with others

I just recently moved to a new town and looking for a local writing group, I joined a Meetup group.  Through this group I met three other writers in the area. The organizer is a writer with her own editing business and the other two members are mystery writers. We will be meeting every other week to write together and to offer feedback on one another’s work. On the weeks we won’t be meeting, I plan to drop into the Shut Up and Write meetings which are also offered through Meetup. These meetings are what they sound like: writers come together, set a timer, and basically shut up and put words to paper (or to computer screen, as the case may be).

Writing groups give me a sense of accountability that I unfortunately do not possess on my own. When I know other writers will be asking about my work each week, I am more inclined to focus. They are also great supports for bouncing off plot ideas and swapping information about writing conferences and events around your area.

Do you have any other tips for incorporating more writing into your life? Or maybe you have experienced challenges when trying to do so? Leave a comment below – I would love to hear from you!