Stephanie Watson
October 11, 2015 11:00 am

Real talk: Being an author is hard! Sure, it’s totally awesome but it can also be super difficult. There are moments when we look at our bookshelves and we’re just like, “woah. There are so many incredible books out there already! How can we compete?”

If you’re stuck for ideas on how to start your journey up the author success-ladder, then let me tell you that no matter how difficult it is to finally put pen to paper, when indeed you do you will feel so relieved (and accomplished!). Promise.

Whether it’s writer’s block, inspirational blockage, fear, grammatical malaise, structural woes, or many of the billions of other issues we authors face, I have found a bevvy of great resources to help get you writing and out of your head. Have a look-see.

The Maeve Binchy Writers Club

This is the book that kick-started my writing hobby into a career, and full-blown passion. For years I only wrote when I felt like it, and I had a million unfinished ideas in the back of my mind. I hated it but I figured that was the way it would always be. Then I read this book and everything changed. This book preaches the fundamental idea that everyone can write, since we all have a story to tell. The delightfully simple book gives equally simple tips for killing writers block and managing your writing into a routine; for me it was finally the kick in the butt that I needed. Binchy explains why a writer’s most important friend is their writing journal, and why it’s essential that we carry said journey with us wherever we go. She also shares her own experiences with writing, and how she formed a schedule of writing at 5 am every day before work.

My rushed and poorly structured stories began to take coherent form as soon as I began planning them out in my sky-blue journal, and my sleeping pattern improved due to how early I started waking up to get right to writing. The late Maeve Binchy taught her students, her readers, and me, that you need to treat your writing as a job you adore; take risks for it, be strict with yourself, but also reward yourself.

Tumblr. No, really: Tumblr

Tumblr is chock-a-block with useful resources for everything you can think of, and a huge quantity of those resources are good for writing. The more writing blogs you follow the more random and helpful posts will pop up on your dashboard feed, but it’s always useful to have your three (or s0) go-to blogs that you like to look through regularly. If you’re looking for a quick fix right now then I highly recommend Reference For Writers, which has a plethora of cultural world-building tips, Writing Box; which has a ton of grammatical advice, and ANC Writing Resources who will gladly answer any questions you have on writing. Phew, it’s almost too much!

The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron

Similarly to The Maeve Binchy Writer’s Club, The Artists Way is your guidebook to re-gathering your motivation and kick-starting your art. The great thing about The Artists Way is not only is it a textbook with a lot of great interactive activities, but it’s also a self-help book for the spiritual and mental side to creating art. You don’t even need to be an artist to use the book (and app!) says Cameron herself, Lawyers and business owners have taken the course and come back feeling capable and motivated. One of the most useful aspects to the book is Cameron’s main brain stretching activity which she names the morning pages. Just as it sounds, she advises you to write 3 pages of your thoughts every morning, as a way to clear out your conscious and unconscious mind. Vent your worries and those nagging little ruminations onto the page, and afterwards you’ll feel clean and ready to work. The book also goes into nurturing your inner artist by taking yourself out on artist dates, setting achievable goals for yourself, and even praying to your chosen “God,” which does not have to be religious at all. My “God” is my ability, and my passion for writing, I try to nurture her when I can and thank her for existing. What’s yours?

Local workshops and seminars

This one is a little trickier as you may live in an area where there aren’t many creative workshops on offer, I know I do. But do check out your local libraries, book stores, colleges, universities, and recreation centers for any upcoming classes. Some of them may even be free. Google your town or city to find any local workshops, or use an online finder to locate one. Once you’ve found your workshop then just suck up as much knowledge as you can, and make a ton of new friends (or publishing contacts!) The more writer friends you make the more likely you are to get good critique on your work, and the more writers you know the more professional contacts become open to you. But above all just go to have fun and do something creative!

If all else fails then there are various online seminars and full courses you can take, such as…

Open Learn Creative Writing Courses

If you’ve heard of the Open University then there’s a chance you’ve heard of Open Learn too. It’s essentially the same thing as the O.U but it comes with an upside and a downside. The downside is that once you’ve finished a course you gain no official qualification, but on the upside it’s completely free; you can take the courses at your own pace, in your own way; and there are no compulsory tests. You can pick any course from the database and look through them for only a few minutes at a time if you wish, it’s the most casual set of courses I can think of, yet it comes with some of the most in-depth information out there. The site contains thousands of long and short courses, and a few creative writing ones that I highly recommend. There are also a lot of english literature courses available that will really help the way you approach fiction. In terms of getting started, whether you’re brand new to fiction or just need a refresher, I recommend checking out the aptly named Start Writing Fiction. It’s relatively short, and goes over all of the basics such as setting and characterisation; how to recognize a weak piece of writing; and how to expand on your vocabulary and narrative voice.

Steven King’s On Writing

Stephen King has sold over 350 million books, and he has also decorated an entire wall with every rejection slip he was ever sent from editorials and publishers; so if there’s a guy who knows the writing biz, then it’s gotta be him. Though the book is classed as a memoir, filling the reader’s mind with imagery from King’s younger days, the book also includes a great tool kit for shaping your own writing craft. I don’t know about you but in order for me to learn a craft I badly need to see some examples first, I couldn’t do one math equation in school without seeing the teacher solve one first, writing is no different. In keeping with this, King provides an edited extract from his short story 1408, giving the reader a great insight into which errors need to be corrected, and how one would go about doing it. Since writing the story is only half the battle, every writer needs to learn how to edit successfully, so seeing this skill in motion really helps. Considering Stephen King’s work is so polarizing (a number of his books being panned, while others branded award-winning classics,) it’s vital that you take what you want from him, and wave off anything you don’t. This is the case for any author you’re seeking inspiration from to be perfectly honest; if you don’t completely vibe with what they’re saying then don’t feel the need to take everything they say as gospel. Writing, just like any other piece of art is personal, it’s unlimited, and experimental. Don’t be afraid to ignore the status quo when you need to.

Facebook Writer’s Groups

I don’t know about you, but my Facebook tab is always, always open, so I may as well be using it to do something creative. One of the best things about Facebook, despite it’s often intrusive and vapid sides, is the Groups function. Whether you’re starting one or joining an existing one, there are almost an unlimited amount of Writing groups to choose from. It all depends on what type of group you’re looking for, and what aspect of writing you need help with. If you’re looking for something general then Indie Author Group is a great place to post your work for critique, and get advice from real life authors and editors. If you’re looking for a group to share your goals and plans, then Write On! will help motivate you to stick to your deadlines. And luckily, for those of you who are holding down a day job with your writing, then Rockin’ the Side Gig is perfect for learning how to juggle your 9-to-5 with your creative passion. The list goes on and on. And if you can’t find the perfect group, or feel a bit shy about reaching out to other writers, then don’t be afraid to start your own group and let them come to you. Even if you’re stuck for ideas or resources for your group, even just having a place to share your thoughts on writing is still a great idea.

Writing fan fiction and talking about it

If your writing specialty is fan fiction, then your best resource for writing is probably to network with other fan fiction authors in order to get an up to date vibe of what your audience really wants. Every writing tip and trick transfers over to this type of fiction, but fan fiction definitely has its own set of do’s and don’ts to follow. Even if you’re not a fan fiction author then trying your hand at a fan fic is actually a pretty good way to beat writers block; if you already have established characters, settings, plot, and themes, then all you really need to think up is the narrative and the dialogue. Many fan fiction writers completely re-imagine their favorite worlds, but if you feel like it then you can also use any existing techniques as stepping-stones into getting back into your own writing, it’s often way easier to jump right into a story once everything else is already taken care of. Most of the writing generators out there will give you a pre-existing plot and a character to work with anyway, so why not make it your favorite character from your favorite TV show?

Another trick you can do is write fan fiction of your own stuff, it sounds odd, but take one of your existing stories and put the characters in an alternative universe, make your vampire characters human and your human characters vampires, take your sci-fi soldiers and make them go school in L.A, there’s literally no limit here. You may even discover that the AU version of your story works better than the original.

National Novel Writing Month

Okay, I’m sure we’ve all said that we’ll try NaNoWriMo every time Fall swings by, but you know what? We need to make a pact to do it this year for real, you and I. For those of you who haven’t heard about it, NaNoWriMo is a site dedicated to writing a novel within the month of November. It sounds impossible I know, but the beauty about NaNoWriMo is that you just have to write it, it doesn’t have to be amazing, it doesn’t have to be original or award-winning, it just has to be. The main reason I list NaNoWriMo as a writing resource, is because being urged to write something as big as a novel within such a short deadline can be a great motivator, because there’s an urgency following you around. I know I’m usually terrible at getting my writing finished when I don’t have a strict deadline. Many authors say that the only way to get good at writing is just to write, get it on the page and out of your mind, because if you don’t write, you won’t write, so getting that November novel out of your system will set the foundation for further writing. And who knows, maybe you’ll pop out something amazing, and if not then maybe you’ll pick the novel back up in a few years and perfect it into an award-winning book. On top of this, NaNoWriMo is also full of writing help, and people who are more than willing to give you a hand with your story. So when November finally hits; get on your mark, get set, go!

[Image via MGM]

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