Several months in, I’ve been humbled and amazed by the many determined, talented writers who’ve found their way to my Writer-in-Residence office hours at the Sharonville Branch Library. They’ve kept me busy (and good company!) editing query letters, suggesting next steps, and simply relating and commiserating.
One thing that’s struck me is that often, the writers who take the time to come in for a consultation really just need to be pointed in the right direction of the information they need. The only problem, of course, is that my office hours are only once a month!
With that in mind, I thought it might be helpful to create a cheat sheet of sorts to the resources I’ve found myself recommending the most—for them and for you. A complete guide to writing and publishing resources could be a book of its own, of course, but here are some of my favorites, in no particular order:
For Advice on the Regular
Whether you’re getting started or getting serious, a magazine or website for writers can be a good and important constant companion on your writing journey.
- Writer’s Digest, opens a new window: I’m not impartial, as I’ve spent years of my career on the masthead. But WD is the longtime leader in its category for good reason, with well-rounded coverage of writing instruction, publishing how-to, and inspiration/motivation. All content eventually becomes free and accessible online, but the magazine offers it first and in the best context eight times a year.
- Poets & Writers, opens a new window: This bi-monthly publication leans a bit toward a more academically minded or serious sort of writer. It has thoughtful pieces on publishing attitudes and trends as well as extensive listings for writing contests, grants, and other opportunities. Some but not all content is also accessible for free online, opens a new window.
- CareerAuthors.com, opens a new window: Run by a small team of industry insiders (read: writers, agents, and editors), this site is building an impressive well of solid content relating to craft, marketing, publishing, the writing life, and more.
For Writers Seeing Agents
- Query Shark, opens a new window: On this website, writers submit their real query letters for critique by an agent. Watch and learn.
- The 2019 Guide to Literary Agents, opens a new window: The Library has this annual guide from Writer’s Digest Books in stock, though you might want your own copy to dog-ear and highlight as you go. It’s the definitive resource for hundreds of literary agents and their complete submission guidelines. Front-of-the-book articles also offer dos and don’ts for submitting.
- Manuscript Wish List, opens a new window: Updated in real time, agents and editors post frequently to this site about what they’re looking for at this very moment. (Some requests are oddly specific—and hey, you could get lucky and find a perfect match.)
- How to Write a Book Proposal, opens a new window by Michael Larsen: If you’re working on a nonfiction project, you don’t need to finish the whole manuscript before you submit, and you don’t need to focus all your energy on a query letter, either. You need to craft a dynamite nonfiction book proposal. This guide tells you exactly how to do it.
For Guidance on the Craft
When in doubt, reach for a book. Here are the ones I find myself recommending most often:
- The Art of Character by David Corbett: A master class in characterization. Available for purchase online or in bookstores.
- The Writer’s Idea Book by Jack Heffron, opens a new window: Written by one of my own personal career mentors (and a fellow Cincinnatian), turn here when you need to shake loose some new or better ideas.
- Story Trumps Structure by Steven James: A fantastic approach to story structure for more organic writers (myself included) whose brains just aren’t wired to outline or plan out plots in advance detail. Available for purchase online or in book stores.
- Story Genius by Lisa Cron, opens a new window: The guide all my successful writer friends swear by.
- The Write Great Fiction Series: Revision & Self-Editing, opens a new window by James Scott Bell: Don’t be overwhelmed by your impending revision: This systematic approach can help.
For Community, Connection and Advice More Specific to You
If your writing falls into a genre, specialization, or focus, you’re doing yourself a disservice if you don’t look into what the corresponding organization can offer its members. Though nominal membership fees are typically required for premium content and connectivity, many writers at all levels find them well worth the investment—with helpful online forums, regional meetups, exclusive workshops online and off, and more. Here are some of the biggest:
- Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators, opens a new window
- Romance Writers of America, opens a new window
- Mystery Writers of America, opens a new window
- International Thriller Writers, opens a new window
- Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, opens a new window
- Women’s Fiction Writers Association, opens a new window
- Historical Novel Society, opens a new window
- Horror Writers Association, opens a new window
- Academy of American Poets, opens a new window
- Editorial Freelancers Association, opens a new window
Until next time,
2019 Writer-in-Residence: Public Library of Cincinnati & Hamilton County
Editor-at-Large: Writer's Digest
Novelist: Almost Missed You • Not That I Could Tell • Forget You Know Me, opens a new window • St. Martin's Press
jessicastrawser.com, opens a new window / t @jessicastrawser, opens a new window / f @jessicastrawserauthor, opens a new window