Sometimes, when you want to write, all you need is a pen and paper. Or a smartphone. You tap out your first few words and if you’re lucky, you can write until you’ve exhausted either your mind or your hand, all with a nice neat little story that you have effortlessly composed. For some people, it really is that easy, but for most of us? Not so much.
The truth is that it takes a lot more than sitting down and just writing away. Some people need a push in the right direction to get started, others need to refresh their memory on the expansive selection of literary devices they can use, and everybody needs to whip out a thesaurus every now and then. Don’t feel ashamed to admit that you get stumped in the middle of writing something. And especially don’t feel ashamed when you realize you know absolutely nothing about what you’re writing about, how to write it, or simply the writing community and industry as a whole.
I’d like to share a list of useful and informative literary websites I’ve found over the ages that have helped me out quite a bit. Mostly it’s for reassurance in knowing that I’m not the only clueless person out there that will type three words then take a twenty minute long break, staring out the window.
WritingForums is a creative writing community that comes together to share their works for the purpose of bettering their writing styles and what they’ve created. Not only do they feature a workshop where writers can share their pieces and receive critique, but they include a multitude of genres from horror to western in several writing forms: short stories, fan fiction, even song lyrics. They also have forums to discuss every facet of writing imaginable outside of actually written works. If you want to acquaint yourself with the writing community online, here is the best place to start.
If you find yourself wanting to have a read but lacking the attention span to commit to a novel, then Electric Literature is the perfect place to hop between equally concise and entertaining articles ranging from thought provoking short stories to humorous “Reviews of the World”. The rapid-fire publication of the collaborative efforts between many modern, low profile writers can put your own position in the world into perspective.
You’ve probably seen this magazine or something similar to it when you’re waiting in line at the grocery store. You glance at it, but it’s never held your interest. It seems too heavy for something to flip through in the couple minutes you have to spare. Physically, it’s impractical. But check their website, and it has all the same content in an easily navigable presentation – and it seems to instantly become a thousand times more relevant, too. Writer’s Digest is truly about everything writing, from getting published to curing writer’s block. It’s an excellent resource when you want to be productive, but don’t know how; reading through any of these articles will quickly ignite the desire to write.
Here’s another great writing magazine, but this one features a particularly important list for those of you that are interested in getting your names out there. I’m linking to a page that contains a list of writing contests sorted by deadline from soonest to furthest away, and if you want a chance to win something big for your writing without having to go through the trouble of getting published, then this is it. Comb through all of the contests and see if any match your interest. For most contests, you have to pay to submit an entry – depending on the cost, it’s either totally worth it, or completely bogus. But it never hurts to try, and you never know: you could win, and all that effort could pay off. Even if you aren’t interested in participating, it’s always cool to see what kind of contests are going down.
If you’re anything like me and most other writers, you are going to get published or die trying. So you want to know a little more about that, don’t you? While the above two sites are bountiful with articles on how to get published, they deal with query letters in slightly less detail. The next two websites will be your best friends.
Before you write up a query letter, take a look at LitRejections. You’ll realize that nearly every popular novel has been rejected once or ten times from agents, and you’ll likely be no different. They feature a section for rejection letters written by agents so you can see how brutally some novels have been turned down, a short story contest, and even interviews with agents to prove that they are, in fact, real human beings that feel emotions when they ruthlessly crush your dreams.
If you already have a query letter written up, I would consider reading through each and every entry on this blog to see how they tear it apart. And then I would consider, even more strongly, submitting your query letter to this blog and watching it get torn apart. This can act as a valuable learning tool and can instill a little humility in young writers who, let’s be honest, will unfailingly think themselves hot shit and then come out absolutely flabbergasted when agents ignore their query letters. It happens to everyone, and this blog shows us why.
So when you feel your motivation beginning to fade, crack open one of these websites and take a look at how the rest of the community operates. Reading a success story (or a story of epic failure) might just be all you need to hop back on that horse and get writing again!
Pop by again on Monday for next week’s article: A History of Play-By-Post Roleplaying And the Evolution of RP Writers.