Most of us have some form of resources that we use for our novels and other writings. I am no different but mine have changed over the years as I’ve grown as a writer. Below are some of the things I use.
My first resource started years ago when I came back to writing more consistently. I knew I had a lot to learn and so I went on a writer’s retreat that was more a class in writing than a place to simply write. That was a turning point for me because I met a writing teacher who could inspire me, teach me technique, and help me get past the voices in my head. At the same time, I was moving forward in my other career so it was a slower process than I had hoped but it taught me perseverance and patience. I still take classes but now I choose them differently because my needs are different. I am finding that online classes can be just as useful as some of the in person types – with the online ones being so much more convenient as long as I am disciplined about watching them and doing the work. I have taken classes through LitReactor and Dean Wesley Smith. I don’t think I’ll ever stop learning or being inspired by some of the teachers.
I’ve been part of several different critique groups over the years. Some were useful at one point and I moved on – or others have remained constant. Right now, I belong to one critique group that has a Google hangout once a week that is genre specific and has really helped me to keep writing on a regular basis as well as provide me with invaluable feedback on my mystery novel. Thanks to Lane and Linda for that. Another critique group I am involved in meets twice a month on conference call where we read from our work to each other, usually between 2,000-4,000 words per person. This group provides more problem solving help and issue spotting, and we share markets and other writing information. Being able to share opportunities with my other two members saves us all a lot of time. In this group, we’ve known each other for 10 years, having met on a writing retreat. For more on setting up a critique group, see Linda’s post on March 2, 2015.
I attend a writing retreat once a year for 5 days. I find that this releases so much creativity and energy – being able to focus on my writing for those days is wonderful. We have the freedom to write from prompts or work on something of our own, without the distractions of work, chores or making our own meals. Evenings are for reading our work out loud without critique which is a good exercise for any writer plus it is great to simply be appreciated for what you write. I also attended the Tinker Mountain writing retreat (Hollins University in Virginia) last year, taking a short story workshop. Having a group workshop on two short stories was really helpful in honing in on aspects of the stories that weren’t quite working and learning more craft.
I have been to some conferences and while I usually learn something from them, I think they would have been more useful if I had had a book out. That is, except for the socializing and meeting other writers. That is helpful and fun. I also think the pitch sessions have been useful – both in making new contacts and in learning how to pitch – also known as getting over the nerves of having to talk about your book to an agent/editor.
The programs that I have found the most useful for me are Scrivener and AutoCrit. Scrivener is helpful in organizing and being able to move text around. AutoCrit helps me with word choice and varying my sentence length. I now know that I tend to use a lot of “that” where it is not needed. I search for when I start editing. AutoCrit helped me find that as well as a lot of other overused words. I use Word for early drafts before I move it into Scrivener simply because I use Word for my day job and it’s easy for me to work in.
I couldn’t do without my beta readers. It can be difficult to hear that your story is not working, there is a big hole you didn’t see, or the story is good, but predictable. However, that feedback is exactly what I need to hear. Don’t get me wrong, I love it when I get feedback that the story intrigued my reader and he/she didn’t know where it was going until the very end. I have beta readers I got to know at a summer workshop, friends who are avid readers and reviewers, and other writers that I trade manuscripts with. I send my readers short stories as well as longer pieces if there isn’t a deadline looming.
I don’t know that any of these are more important than the others. All of these resources fuel my writing and creativity. What about you? What favorite resources or support tools that you use?