7 Writing Resources to Make You a Better Writer

by Monica M. Clark | 10 comments

Over the years I’ve written about my journey trying to get my first novel published.

There’s an emotional aspect to it all, of course (The struggle! The triumphs!), but documenting the steps I’ve taken has also had a practical outcome. I've been able to see the benefit of each step I've taken to become a better writer.

writing resources

7 Writing Resources to Make You a Better Writer

I’ve recorded my experiences with each writing resource I’ve turned to along the way. And there were a lot, seven to be exact.

I started with…

1. Writing Classes

My writing journey literally began with signing up for a class at The Writer’s Center in Bethesda, Md. In addition to giving me the 411 on fiction writing, the class showed me that there existed a writing community.

I found The Writer’s Center with a simple Google search, and I’m sure you can find courses in your area the same way. If not, there are definitely classes available online if this is something you want to try.

When the class ended, the other students and I decided to form a…

2. Writing Group

It didn’t last very long, but it was an awesome experience. Ultimately, the greatest benefit (in my opinion) of a writing class is getting feedback on your work, and you can get that for free with an informal writing group.

Forming a writing group is easy—you only need three of four people to meet regularly and discuss each other’s work. Everyone can submit each month, or you can rotate. There are no rules, but I do suggest trying to stick to a regular schedule so the group doesn’t fade away.

As I worked on my draft, I followed a lot of…

3. Blogs

I found the list of Top Ten Blogs for Writers and followed them all—including The Write Practice!

Over time, my favorites became The Write PracticeWriter Unboxed, Wordplay: Helping Writers Become Authors, Writer’s Digest, and The Creative Penn. I learned a LOT from these blogs– about writing, about publishing, about people doing the same thing I was doing.  I both discovered useful little tips and had huge revelations.

Those blogs really gave me an education about the brand new field I was trying to enter.

Following writing blogs is also how I got this gig at The Write Practice! In one post, The Write Practice called for applications for regular contributors. I applied, and the rest was history.

After I finished my first draft, I entered a…

4. Writing Contest

I honestly don’t remember what initially compelled me to submit my work to a writing contest. It may have been that criteria was just right. Or that it seemed affordable (about $30). Or perhaps I was motivated by the exposure the winner would get from potential agents.

Either way, I did it, and became a finalist. It was crazy. The winner would be announced at the Washington Romance Writers annual retreat.

And so I attended my first…

5. Retreat

The retreat experience was like a maturing for me. I was no longer a complete novice to this thing called fiction writing because by then I had written a full draft and was much more informed about the industry. That said, I was still relatively new to the game.

At the retreat I attended panels, pitched my novel to agents, and socialized with writers and agents alike. Once again, I felt an amazing sense of community surrounding an experience that can be really solitary.

Since then I’ve attended retreats near and far, including one taught by Cheryl Strayed. You can sign up to attend a pre-organized retreat, or you can simply take a few days off to travel somewhere beautiful and quite, dedicating the time to your writing.

I had a great experience with the Washington Romance Writers, but I’m not quite a romance writer.

So I decided to find my own…

6. Writers Association

That’s where I found the Women’s Fiction Writers Association. It also has contests, retreats, classes, and other resources—all designed to help writers of women’s fiction. This was great for finding agents looking for work in my genre.

If you’re a Romance writer, the Romance Writers of America and its affiliates are definitely worth looking into. From my understanding, the associations available to writers in other genres vary widely in quality and activeness.

After unsuccessfully pitching a few agents, I decided I needed a professional to read through my work.

So I paid for…

7. Editing Services

There are a lot of editing services out there. I used a developmental editor I found through Writer’s Digest University because I wanted high-level and structural feedback, rather than line editing. It’s not cheap, but I thought it was worth it. After putting my soul on the page, I thought I needed to give those pages the care they deserved.

What writing resources have you tried? Let us know in the comments.

PRACTICE

Take fifteen minutes to write about a writing resource that had a big impact on you or your writing. Share in the comments section!

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Monica is a lawyer trying to knock out her first novel. She lives in D.C. but is still a New Yorker. You can follow her on her blog or on Twitter (@monicamclark).

10 Comments

  1. LilianGardner

    Hi Monica,
    Thanks for your post of how to be a successful, published writer. You worked hard to reach your goal, and I do admire you. I wish I could be just half as determined and constantas you are. At times I’m put off because I can’t get anyone here to read even a snippet of my writing; firstly because there aren’t any English speaking persons living near, and my family don’t read, except for information on specific products. They are pleased that I write, but never ask what I’m writing.
    Thank heavens I joined TWP though I’ve been absent from the scene over the past months. I always read the mail from TWP and post and comments to articles from members.
    I’m never satisfied with my writing, even after a fifth edit, but I refuse to give up. I love it, fret over bad composition, cut, edit, leave the story, go back to it and apply all the advice to better the ‘tale’.
    However, I suppose I’ll carry on writing, just for the fun it gives me. My characters and protagonists keep me company and stimulate my thoughts.

    I’ll look into a Writer’s Group, as you suggest.

    Best of luck with your first novel. I look forward to reading it.

    Reply
    • Sondra

      Hi Monica.
      Your journey had to be a wonderful experience because you learned so much along the way.
      With all that you have accomplished, are you still able to write on a regular basis?
      I know I need to commit to writing on a scheduled plan, then join groups and take classes.
      Thank you for the information.

  2. Elaine

    Hi Monica, Thank you so much for taking the time to share your experience with us. I am a newbie so I’m just starting to figure out where to begin. You have given me many ideas to explore, which I am looking forward to doing. TWP has been my first experience with other writers online. Trying to write every day. Have posted things here twice so far., and received encouragement.

    Reply
  3. Sarah

    Thanks for this lovely article Monica.
    I am a Primary School Teacher and most of my inspiration for stories comes from my students. I work in a tiny village school in rural Australia (we have 16 students) and they are all highly creative kids. I read my short stories to my class and I have found they are always keen to sit down and write afterwards because they see that I have done it just for fun. They get the message that writing can be an enjoyable hobby in ‘real life’.

    My other source of inspiration is walking in nature. Ideas seem to come to me as I contemplate the greenery, or sit by the creek.

    I’m really enjoying this blog and I also read several of the blogs you have listed in this article. I find that writing is a nourishing activity. I give out a lot of energy through teaching and writing is a way of going within and exploring the inner realms of creativity and imagination – it is a nice balance, as both activities enrich each other.

    Reply
  4. Godfrey Coppinger

    After attending a talk on Picture Book Writing, sponsored by SCBWI, several of us got together and formed a critique group. It was life changing! I now write every day and our group has helped with giving me direction and enthusiasm. I hope I have done the same for them. I feel blessed that they are both able to give AND receive such valuable and positive feedback. Of course, I’ve already encountered feedback that I didn’t quite agree with. But, I changed the story anyway, because there will come a time when a publisher will ask me to change something, and I’d better be prepared! All I can say is LIFE IS GOOD. Thank you for the great article. I will be taking much of your advice.

    Reply
  5. LaCresha Lawson

    I need to take a writing class. Thanks for the information!

    Reply
  6. Sandy Stuckless

    All great suggestions.
    I need to do more of all of them. Although I do follow KM Weiland’s blog fairly closely. I’m a member of the Facebook group 10 Minute Novelists which is almost like a (really big) writing group. We do crits for each other and support each other in our various projects. Although, eventually, I’d like to hook up with an in-person group. Unfortunately, the pro editing services are going to have to wait until I get a few more nickels in the piggy bank. Same with the retreat.

    Reply
  7. Lenke Slegers

    Pfoe, I dint google long before I found TWP and I love it. Its like a writing class and group and retreat all in one go! I love the feedback we give each other, and I have already learned a lot from only 3 postings (and feedback). Still working on my show dont tell mainly.
    Prompt 4 was a bit hard. Got a bit of writers block when I picked it up again. So did prompt 5 at the same time: write your worst sentence.
    Couldnt do it for 30 minutes, as if felt really bad, what I was writing (and then, and then, and so…).
    So like the prompt said: lets have a good laugh at it and tomorrow I will give it another try with the next prompt.

    Laugh away:

    Apparently in this culture you have to solve issues in group. All staff had gathered and stopped buzzing when the manager showed up. The manager asked Julius what happened, shushing the chef when he wanted to interrupt.

    And then the chef was allowed to tell his story. He did so, trying to speak levelly, but failing. The other staff members stood and watched. Nobody uttered a word. In the end they all said something without anybody losing his face and the manager made the chef and Julius shake hands and that was it.

    Of course the manager felt that there was more strain beneath, and it would take some time to get over it, but she hoped they would, they were her two best workers.

    So she went back to her statistics (boring) and hoped for the best of it.

    And that was that. End of story. End of writers block, end of trying to write a really bad sentence/paragraph.

    Reply
  8. MaryJoM

    Hi, Monica!
    I’m just starting the second in a series of creative writing courses offered by Weslayan University through Coursera. Good content, good lecturers, and good feedback on assignments from fellow learners. I’d recommend it highly.

    Like you, I started out not knowing much, but I am certainly learning.

    Reply
  9. Cauê Moraes

    Wow, I made a newsletter subscription for each site you recommended. Email is my primal source of useful data. I know this is a stupid recommendation, but every time I need to describe a landscape, a creature, a medieval warrior, etc I google it in DeviantArt. There are people who really got the “fantasy spirit” there. Sci-fi novels also give me a bust of inspiration, even when I am writing fantasy. SF is inspiring in so many ways!

    Reply

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