By Angela Ackerman
So, three things about me:
- I like to help (really, I’m a bit psycho about it – be warned)
- I like to build unique storytelling tools
- I like to share great resource finds with other writers
Online, I try to match people with the information they need. Sometimes people reach out through email or a Facebook page to see if I can help them solve a problem they’re having. Many writers tend to have similar struggles, and so I often end up recommending the same tools or sites again and again. I thought it might be fun to round up the resources I recommend the most.
#1: The Critique Circle
A lot of writers reach out because they’ve 1) written a book and need guidance on the next steps, 2) they’ve become frustrated because they can’t seem to sell their book and need to know if there’s something wrong with it, or 3), they need an editor for a manuscript. While it sounds like these writers may need different things, likely they don’t. All three could benefit from the same thing – unbiased feedback.
Critique Circle is an online community where you can submit your work for critique and offer feedback to others in turn. You’ll get a variety of critiques (six, ten, maybe more) from writers at different levels. Having six sets of eyes (or more) on your work means collectively you’ll get some good guidance on what to fix, and multiple critiques can help with spotting patterns. If several folks are all pointing out the same or similar issues, you know there’s a problem to fix.
You might be wondering why I would send someone who is submitting to agents and publishers to a critique group and not an editor, right? Well, it’s simple: many writers submit before they’re ready. (I sure did, back in the day.) And taking your book to an editor right off the bat is going to cost money, whereas the Critique Circle is free (they do have a paid plan, too). Starting with a free option is a good first step.
So, unless a person tells me they’ve extensively workshopped a book and have already used critique groups, I recommend starting at Critique Circle, even if a person just needs an unbiased opinion on whether a book is ready for submitting. Once the writer has learned what they can at the critique level, they can decide if they need to move to an editor, or focus on their query letter & targeting to achieve a better response rate.
Another handy-dandy tool I suggest to writers all the time as they polish and tighten is ProWritingAid. It’s a brilliant tool with a free and paid version (and the cost is reasonable and offers great value). As I mentioned above, hiring a freelance editor can be costly, so the stronger you make your writing before seeking one out, the better. And if you are querying, or sending a synopsis and sample pages, you don’t want typos, grammar or weak writing to distract an agent or editor from your brilliant story premise.
#3: Jane Friedman
One reason why it’s such a great time to be a writer is that our community is packed with experts willing to share their experience to help us navigate publishing. In the old days, it was straightforward – you wrote the best book you could, got an agent, and then submitted to publishers. Straightforward, but far from easy. Like today, you needed a stellar book with a fresh premise, a killer query, and then to win the lottery by finding the right agent and editor at the right time, who was looking for a project just like yours. That’s traditional publishing.
Of course now we have self-publishing and hybrid publishing options, too, and so we need to think about the right path for us. Once we decide, we need to buckle in and get ready for a mountain of work. But fear not, writing friend, because we have Jane Friedman‘s beautiful brain and her step-by-step guidance as we navigate the publishing path we’ve chosen.
Jane been in the industry for a long time and knows it inside and out. She’s taken a deep dive into different publishing routes and so has many articles and resources to help writers. (Her blog is also filled with tons of great articles on craft and marketing, too!)
Ah, marketing, the necessary evil. We can write a book, and publish it, but if we don’t market it, chances are, no one will find it. So, we need to proactively think about our audience and how to reach them. I know you’re worried about coming across as car salesman-y, but here’s a secret – marketing isn’t about selling books. It’s about having a focus, being authentic, and building relationships. (You can read more about my FAR Marketing Method here.),
If we want to find our reading audience across the entire world, we should get online and embrace social media to some degree. Don’t worry, we don’t need to do it all, but we should do some, focusing on platforms where our ideal audience hangs out.
A big problem with social media is that it can steal a lot of time, so using tools in the right way can help us be more efficient. A tool I couldn’t live without is Buffer. It allows me to schedule content on all my social platforms, so I’m always sharing helpful articles and occasional items to help people discover how I can help them. Scheduling this content means I get time back to use my social media time to hang out and chit-chat on feeds and DMs, as being social is what it’s really about.
Between writing, publishing, marketing, and running a business, well, writers juggle A LOT. Lists can be our friend, but having a way to visualize our action items and track important spreadsheets, links and sites in one place is really helpful. Becca and I use Trello, which allows us to create boards, lists, and cards for everything we do from our publication process for each book, to marketing objectives and goals, to brainstorming ideas for blog posts, books, and new tools for One Stop for Writers. Cards can be dragged from one column to the next, reordered, labelled, etc. It’s a brilliant way to map out a to-do list or process, or even brainstorm ideas for a new book. Did I mention Trello has a generous free version? Check it out!
#6: One Stop for Writers
As you know, Becca and I work to help writers strengthen their description skills because the better we get at showing the things that matter in a story, the more readers can truly experience the story, and a good book becomes exceptional. Many are familiar with our Thesaurus Writing Guides, and so write us to see if we have a thesaurus on a particular topic they need help describing.
Ironically, more often than not, we point them to One Stop for Writers because we have many more descriptive thesaurus topics there (16) than we do in book form (7). Our thesauruses are all centralized in one database, meaning it’s all in one place, saving writers time.
The site has a lot of other special lists, generators, worksheets, and crazy-helpful tools (like the Character Builder) that can help writers with everything to do with a story, so even if something isn’t covered in a thesaurus, it’s tackled somewhere. If you’d like to poke around to see all the resources and tools, test drive the 2-week free trial.
#7: Wide for the Win Facebook Group
If there’s one truth in this world, it’s that writers work freaking hard to get their books into the world. And that work doesn’t stop at writing “the end” or hitting the publish button at Ingram, Amazon, or elsewhere, either.
When we choose to be authors, we’re also choosing to become business owners, marketers, publishers, publicists, and accountants. And boy, is there a lot to know.
One of the best sources of information I’ve found is the Wide for the Win Facebook group. It’s over 10,000 strong, and each member is motivated to share knowledge and experience to help one another succeed.
If you’re an indie, this is the group for you. But honestly, I think even if you’re traditionally published, I think there’s a lot to learn here about how to sell. One thing to note – this is a “going wide” group, meaning discussion is around leveraging multiple platforms to reach readers, not restricting a book to Kindle Unlimited.
#8 The Storyteller’s Roadmap
Another thing people ask about is where to hire a story coach (here are some options). A story coach can be wonderful for someone who needs guidance, but for some, the cost is not in the budget. Becca and I created a solution for writers who want step-by-step help but are on a budget – the Storyteller’s Roadmap.
There are a lot of steps to planning, writing, and revising a powerful novel, meaning more than a few places where writers can become stuck, blocked, lost, and frustrated enough to quit. It’s important to keep going because this story called out to be written, right? There’s a diamond within, and if it’s written, it can be fixed.
The Storyteller’s Roadmap is your writing GPS, helping you navigate your way to a publish-ready novel. It guides you to what you need as you need it, too, pointing out tools, resources, and advice that help make your job easier. You loved your story enough to start it, and the Storyteller’s Roadmap at One Stop for Writers will help you finish it.
#9: I Need Help With… Resource Mother Lode
Finally, last year when we redesigned Writers Helping Writers, we built a powerful I need help with… section on the home page with our very best articles, tools, tip sheets, and more. You’ll find a ton of help in key areas, not only to help you write a stronger story, but also market your book, and manage your mindset and business. Just choose your topic to find what you need:
These are my top recommendations…what are yours?