Today, writers can feel more connected than ever before. Even if you live in a remote village and your nearest neighbour is seven miles down a dirt road, as long as you have Internet access, you can communicate with fellow writers or at the very least lurk on their websites. There are forums and blogs and reams of information on books, publishers, agents, writing tips, writer's block.... If you have ever wondered about an aspect of the writing business, all you need is Google and a few hours to find the answer.
Here are some websites I've found helpful and interesting. In many instances, I only wish I had more time to visit them regularly.
This Itch of Writing by British author Emma Darwin is a delight to read. Her blogs touch on such topics as whether to include a prologue, what lyrical writing is, characterization-in-action and the question of publicity. She also offers writing tips and tools of the craft. Another page provides brief descriptions of books she is reading (fiction or books on writing). Of course her site also includes information on her books, such as The Mathematics of Love, pictured here.
Emma Darwin teaches creative writing in the U.K. and she offers readers a useful tool called the Novel-Planning Grid. Although I haven't used it yet, now that I'm re-imagining the second half of my book, I have a feeling that such a tool could really come in handy.
Someone recommended the Absolute Write Water Cooler to me this week. It's a forum for writers, and from the looks of it, it covers just about any writing topic: genres, grammar, agents, publishers, freelance, markets, NaNo and more.
One thread intrigued me right off the top. It's on story research. Writers pose their questions and other writers provide their knowledge of the situation or problem. Here's an example: a writer wanted to write a scene where the main character bathes a kitten but didn't know if he should use a laundry room sink or a bathtub. Forty-five people replied, many with personal stories of how they bathed their cats. (The kitchen sink and an enclosed shower stall were the most popular answers.)
Once you have completed your story or book, you need to know where to send it. Places for Writers lists competitions, calls for submissions and deadlines. The site concentrates on Canadian and American markets, and I've discovered a few new literary magazines or contests on these pages.
Of course, you may also want to check out agents. AgentQuery is a database of literary agents. There's a ton of good information on the site about how to write a query letter, how to spot scammers and a whole section on e-publishing, should you decide to go that route.
If you do start looking for an agent, you may want to use the QueryTracker website to keep tabs on your queries and replies. The site has been on the Writer's Digest's list of best websites for writers for the last five years. It's a free tracking system that allows you to look up agents and record your queries. The real value is that it collates information from users to provide average response times, acceptance rates and other trends for each agent.
One site I've visited many times in the past few years is ResArtis, an association of artist residencies across the world. I've applied to residencies in the U.S. and the U.K. But there are listings from 70 different countries.
Every type of residency is available for all types of creative work. In some, you live in a bustling city and take in the culture while working on your project. In others, you live in a cabin far from the distractions of everyday life. The site provides key information for each residency by deadline date or in an alphabetical list.
I have my fingers crossed that my application to one of the residencies in Scotland will be accepted for 2014. If it is, I look forward to blogging about the experience.