Ever since Speakeasy was launched in 2006, we’ve been linking to news, advice, and resources scattered around the internet. This slowed down a little in 2013, courtesy of the time spent redesigning AWMonline and migrating Speakeasy to its new home, but we figured we’d kick off 2014 with a bang and put together a comprehensive list of the most useful online writing advice we’ve found in the last eight years.
1. Unasked For Advice To New Writers About Money (John Scalzi, 2008)
If we were putting together a reading list for new writers at the start of their careers, this would be the first thing on it. It’s a long post – over five and a half thousand words – but it’s the best primer for how a writer’s finances work and how you can prepare for your career that we’ve seen so far.
2. How I Went From Writing 2,000 words a day to 10,000 words a day (Rachel Aaron, 2011)
This post went viral among certain parts of the internet when it first came out, and it’s an interesting examination of how one writer tested and experimented with their own process to maximize productivity. Even if you don’t have ambitions towards a 10k writing day, the basic philosophy of discovering what works best for your writing is worth looking over.
3. Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing: You Can’t Make Money Writing Fiction (Dean Wesley Smith, 2011)
Smith’s “magic bakery” metaphor for the way copyright works is a great way of thinking about how to make money from your creative work, and outlines the way many writers set about making a full-time career from their writing.
4. On Writing – Heinlein’s Rules (Robert J. Sawyer, 1996)
Heinlein’s rules are famous among SF writers for being a no-nonsense approach to getting published. Robert Sawyer revisits them here, outlining the rules step-by-step with details on why they work. Deceptively simple on the surface, incredibly hard to implement.
5. How to Be a Full-Time Writer (Chuck Wendig, 2012)
Let’s be honest: we love us some Wendig here at AWM – it’s one of the reasons we asked him to be a guest at the 2013 GenreCon. We could have picked any number of his blog about craft to go into this list, but in the end his post on building a career remains the AWM favourite. Like all Check Wendig posts, it comes with a language warning, but the advice is solid and worth thinking through before you get around to quitting your day job.
6. Project Based Writing (Charlotte Nash, 2013)
New writers get inundated with advice such as “you must write every day,” but Queensland writer Charlotte Nash talks about her project-based approach to creative work based on her experience as an engineer. If you’re struggling to consistently fit writing into your daily life, Charlotte’s approach may be worth checking out.
7. Update (Nancy Kress, 2011)
A short blog post about a work-in-progress by acclaimed SF writer Nancy Kress, but it covers the three-step process she uses when stuck on a particular aspect of her work (in this case, an ending). It’s short, simple, and easily applied to your own work, leading to the occasional shout of “apply the Kress protocol” around the AWM offices when we get stuck on our own projects.
8. How I used Kickstarter to Reboot a Book Series, and My Career (and maybe my life?) (Tobias Buckell, 2012)
In 2008 Tobias Buckell was four books into a five book series with dwindling sales. He also experienced major health troubles that limited the time he could spend at the keyboard. In 2011 he turned to his dedicated fans to support the production of the final book in the series and relaunched his career in the process. His blog post takes a pragmatic look at his career and his kickstarter experience, both positive and negative.
9. The Daily Routines of Famous Writers (Maria Popova, 2012)
No two writers work exactly the same way, and nothing demonstrates that more clearly than Brain Pickings collection of daily routines from writers as diverse as Ray Bradbury, Joan Didion, Susan Sontag, Don DeLillo, and more.
10. Want to be Read 100 Years from Now? Here’s How (Kristine Kathryn Rusch, 2012)
The first of a five-part series about estate planning for writers, Rusch takes a close look at what happens to your creative work after you die and how it can affect your legacy and inheritors. Writers estates are a serious business, especially given that the inheritors can continue to earn money off long after the writer is dead. Take a few moments to read the entire series and give some thought to what happens to your work after you’re dead.
11. How to Be a Freelancer v.1 (John Birmingham, 2012)
Before he was a successful thriller writer and chronicler of share-house disasters, John Birmingham spent over a decade as one of Australia’s most prolific freelance writers. His post about how to build a freelance career is no-nonsense and sensible, even if it doesn’t always seem encouraging.
12. How to be a Freelancer, version 1.1, the travel writer DLC (John Birmingham, 2012)
A follow-up to the preceding post, looking specifically at the travel side of freelance writing and how to go about finding such gigs.
13. A Definition of Author Platform (Jane Friedman, 2012)
The internet is full of people telling you how to blog, tweet, and facebook your way to a successful writing career, and often this advice seems to be missing the forest for the trees. Before you launch into a wholesale engagement with the internet in an effort to build your author platform, take a look at Jane Friedman’s blog post dissecting what platform is and why it can work for you. It’s a great filter to use when looking at all the advice you come across afterwards.
14. No One Cares About Your Life Story: 9 Tips for a Better Author Bio (Cameron Peirce, 2013)
If you’re among the handful of authors who actually likes writing your author bio, more power to you. For everyone else, Cameron Pierce’s post over on LitReactor is a great reference to consider when it comes time to put together your 50 word description.
15. 10 Rules for Writing Fiction, Part One (The Guardian, 2010)
Crime-writer Elmore Leonard started things, offering up ten rules for writing fiction that kicked off with never open a book with the weather. The Guardian took things further by asking a bunch of other writers for their top-ten rules for writing, including entries from Margaret Atwood, Roddy Doyle, Jonathan Franzen, Neil Gaiman, and PD James. Also recommended: Part Two of the series.
16. Go Beyond Simple Networking and Organise Your Own ‘Mastermind Group’ (Barrett Brooks, 2013)
Ever notice how successful people all seem to know each other? Maybe it isn’t a coincidence. Barrett Brooks looks at the possibility of building your own Mastermind Group to keep your career on track, using the model provided by the Inklings as an example. If it worked for Tolkien and C.S. Lewis…
17. Wonderbook’s Editor Round Table (Wonderbooknow, 2013)
Ever wondered what’s going through an editor’s mind when they’re reading a story in the slush? Wonderbooknow.com, the site supporting Jeff VanderMeer’s extraordinary book on writing, Wonderbook, brings together 8 working short-fiction editors and gets their comments – general and specific – about a specific story. This is fascinating reading for any writer looking to get some insight into the editorial mindset.
18. The Four Principles of Puppetry, with Mary Robinette Kowal (Writing Excuses, 2009)
We’re cheating a little, since this is a podcast rather than a blog post, but Kowal’s application of the four principles of puppetry to fiction made our jaws drop. No matter how far into your writing career you are, take fifteen minutes and listen to this podcast. We promise you won’t regret it.
19. MIND MELD: Shrewd Writing Advice From Some of Science Fiction’s & Fantasy’s Best Writers (SF Signal, 2009)
This article brings together advice from writers whose careers have spanned decades, and there are some gems hidden in there even if you aren’t a reader or writer of science fiction. Our favourite comes from Mike Resnick:
A piece of, not advice, but information came from Gordie Dickson 35 years ago: if I was good and I was prolific, within 25 years (which seemed like forever back then) I’d be getting a pleasant surprise — a foreign or reprint sale — every week for the rest of my life…and damned if he wasn’t right. I’ve been making better than 52 reprint or foreign sales every year since the mid-1990s (what I call “no-heavy-lifting” sales). Some are big, lots are small. He never promised me a rose garden, just a minimum of 52 roses a year. (Thanks, Gordie!)
20. Sample Phrases to Politely Turn Down New Projects (Monica Valentinelli, 2008)
If you’re only going to bookmark one post on this list, make it this one. There comes a point in every writer’s life when they have to say no to a project, whether it’s because there’s not enough money on offer or there simply isn’t enough time. Valentinelli’s list of responses are a great way of keeping your options open and maintaining a relationship with whoever’s asking, and can sometimes lead to new opportunities you didn’t expect when you responded.
21. Your Revision Checklist: A Few Final Steps Before You Submit Your Manuscript (Grub Street, 2013)
This may not seem like an exciting post compared to some of the others on our list, but the methodical checklist for making sure every aspect of your manuscript is ready for submission is invaluable for making sure you don’t rush past a step and make a simple mistake.