Tools & Top Tips

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Today I intend to be useful to others, as others have been useful to me, and share some of my writing resources. There are tons of articles, websites, books, podcasts, magazines, courses and general know-it-alls out there to assist the amateur writer and the resulting plethora of choice means it can be tough to find something actually useful (see previous comments on white noise). Now, I’m not saying that the following links will be of value to anyone else, but these are all resources that I use on a regular (i.e. weekly or more) basis. I hope they help!

NAMES

The controversy around character and place names in fantasy writing is an old and bitter argument, and I’m not going to go into it in detail. Suffice to say that random punctuation in a name is neither big nor clever, and you should also try to avoid names that look like you’ve sieved the vowels out of the alphabet. If you have trouble thinking up strong, memorable, pronounceable names then a really good place to start is the Old Testament (don’t worry if you don’t have a copy – Wikipedia lists them all). Alternatively, I offer for your delectation and delight a website called Godchecker. It doesn’t just do gods, it also has heroes and saints from a million different cultures complete with comedy descriptions. You can search by culture, by meaning, by alphabet… you need never recourse to bizarre apostrophes again.

STRUCTURE

Last weekend a friend recommended a free podcast called Writing Excuses – ’15 minutes long because you’re in a hurry and we’re not that smart’. They cover everything from flora and fauna in a fantasy setting to how good guys go bad. It’s a bit rambling occasionally, and not every episode is gold-plated, but there’s definitely enough in there to offer everyone a helping hand. Their episode on brevity managed to break the writer’s block I’ve been suffering. I can’t give it a higher recommendation than that. Season 7 is currently available free on iTunes, and every back episode can be listened to on their website.

EDITING

The curse of every writer. You get to the end of your story – it’s done and finished, it’s your beautiful baby – and then you have to go back to the beginning and start tearing it apart. I hate it and never used to do it. Then about five years ago someone loaned me a copy of Self Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King. I read it from cover to cover and then bought my own copy which now lives in my handbag. It has honestly changed my writing style from the bones up, given me a lot of guidance (and, as a result, confidence) in structure, and not once did I feel lectured. There are tons of books on writing out there – this is the only one I’ve ever recommended. You can read the first chapter on Amazon, and then decide for yourself.

GETTING PUBLISHED

Okay, this isn’t exactly a resource so much as an opportunity but I figured I’d include it here. Mr. Terry Pratchett is running a competition for first-time fantasy novelists called Anywhere But Here, Anywhen But Now. The deadline is 31st December 2012 and the word count is 80k-150k. Details are on his website. Competition will doubtless be tough but it’s an incredible opportunity to kick off your writing career. Go for it. I will be.

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