By Matthew Schulz
Whether you’re struggling with story structure, character development, setting or just keeping yourself motivated to finish that manuscript, it is easy to find writing help online. Finding advice that can really help make you a better writer, however, isn’t quite so simple.
So where do you look? Scribe and the rest of the Writers League of Texas website is a great place to start. Twitter — especially the #amwriting hashtag – can also be an invaluable tool for someone who’s eager to learn about the craft or business of writing. But there are plenty of other places.
This article contains some of my favorite posts that I’ve seen online recently. I hope you’ll find them as helpful as I did.
– Victoria Mixon, a veteran editor whose Twitter feed (@VictoriaMixon) is one of my favorites, offers “The 4 most common mistakes fiction editors see.” These include fundamental issues such as unfocused structure and underdeveloped characters, and they can be found at K.M. Weiland’s blog, a consistently good source for helpful writing tips.
– Another one of my favorite follows on Twitter, Elizabeth S. Craig [click the red “Read More” button below to continue](@elizabethscraig), is a North Carolina-based mystery writer. Her blog is filled with practical, useful information for writers. Among the most useful pieces is the “Twitterific Archive,” which contains dozens of helpful blog posts that she’s found around the web. It covers virtually every aspect of writing. A must-see.
– Dallas-based author Roni Loren offers up “The Top 5 things a writer should NOT do.” Tip No. 1: Don’t send a query or manuscript off until you’ve had it read by someone who is not related to you. Your family might mean well, but when it comes to your writing, you’re looking for objectivity, not unconditional love.
– Kristen Lamb, an author from the Dallas-Fort Worth area, takes an in-depth look at setting in “Setting: more than a backdrop.” As someone who struggles with this aspect of novel writing, I found this post quite helpful.
– Austin-based writer/editor Brooke Monfort’s “Layering archetypes to create compelling characters ” is a thought-provoking look at character types and how you can use them and combine them to make your story more believable.
– “Keeping track of details” by WordServe Literary Group agent Rachelle Gardner hit home with me. It includes tips on how to keep the minutiae of your book — for example, a secondary character’s eye color — straight in your head. That’s a real challenge when you’ve written tens of thousands of words.
– Think you’ve finished that first draft? Viking editor Kendra Levin brings you “Questions to ask yourself before you start revising,” plus some practical tips to help you once you actually start making revisions.
– “Use journaling to become a better writer” by Austin writer Shennandoah Diaz tells how you can use events in your own life to improve your observation and reporting skills.
– If you’re struggling to deepen your characters, check out TheScriptLab.com’s “Character questionnaire.” Though ScriptLab professes to focus on screenwriting, these questions can help broaden any writer’s thinking about character development.
– Janet Fitch, author of “White Oleander” and writing teacher at USC, shares her “10 rules for writers,” My favorite: Torture your protagonist. After all, that’s part of the fun of writing, isn’t it?
– Finally, since a blog’s not a blog without a little self-promotion, I’d like to point out the first blog I wrote for Scribe. “Finish it! Five simple tips to make more time for writing” is a series of practical tips to help writers balance the madness of a day job, a family and a passion for writing. These tips have helped me greatly. They can do the same for you.
That’s just a very small sample of what’s available, obviously. And I’d love to hear of other great posts, so feel free to leave a comment here and share your favorites.
Good luck, and happy writing!
Matthew Schulz has written for the Dallas Morning News, Houston Chronicle, Associated Press and American Banker. He is currently writing his second novel and aspiring toward his lifelong dream of becoming a published author of fiction. His day job has him working as a Managing Editor at CreditCards.com, where he helps lead an award-winning news team and has even helped coordinate a video town hall with the White House. You can follow him on Twitter @matthewschulz and learn more about him at MattSchulz.com.