Saturday, June 25, 2011

Be a Writer Site Ninja!

There are so many fabulous writing websites out there, and I’m sure I’ve not even discovered half of them. Each one is a little bit different from the others, it seems, and is pertinent to a different stage of the writing process. So wherever you are with that first, second, or nineteenth novel, there’s a site for you!

What I’ve done here is list the websites I’ve found most useful for each of the stages of writing a novel, and the order in which they can be used.

PHASE: Writing

Okay, let’s face it, this is the longest and most grueling part of the process. It involves draft after draft, a pile of scrapped chapters, failed characters, ruinous endings. It takes time, tears, energy, and often you must sacrifice a little bit of every other area of life to it. Your grades fall, your house stays a wreck, your friends wonder if you died and didn’t even take time off from writing to schedule your own funeral. You feel like you’re writing in circles. You’re stuck in the reincarnation cycle, and you can’t find that door labeled “Nirvana” anywhere.

The key to not getting burned out? There are several. The Forum on this sight is small, tight-knit, and friendly. It’s also very helpful. Most Attractive Feature: you post your first 13 lines and get feedback on just those lines, based on the theory that that’s as much time as an agent is going to give you before they toss your ms—and your dreams—into the dumpster. Want to build up those publishing credits before you start querying? Send out short stories! They take a day to write, a day to revise, and a minute to email. Send them out in droves; chances are someone will pick one up. And voila! A publishing credit! And sometimes—and arguably even sweeter—a cool 7 cents per word payment. Those 7 cents add up quick. Just so you can check back every few days and remind yourself that yes, people are selling their books every day, so it is possible, now stop stalling and get back to your ms. Just because its fun to imagine your book on the home page. A sort of private pep rally, y’know. At least, it is for me.

PHASE: Feedback

Your manuscript is finished… but is it any good? You need beta readers, baby! Here’s where you can find them: This site, run by HarperCollins, is going to require as much giving as taking. If you want feedback, you’re gonna have to give it. Best idea is to get connected in the forums on the site and find crit partners through that. But there’s a sweet little reward for those who put in the time and make a lot of connections: If you’re book becomes one of the most-backed books on the site in a given month, you get a free read and review from HarperCollins! This runs on a kind of karma system. You crit, you get credits, you get critted back. For a novel, you can put in an RFDR (request for dedicated readers) which will get you a few faithful readers who will go chapter by chapter and give you their feedback.
***Whatever way you decide to get beta readers, remember you’re going to have to give as much time as you ask for, and sometimes more. It’s only fair. Be prepared to do as much reading as you do writing. And it’s good for you! Critiquing others’ work and making contacts with other writers can be one of the greatest rewards of the writing process. Enjoy it!

PHASE: Query Writing

Ah, the dreaded query letter. They say you should take an entire month just to work on your measly, one-page query. Yikes much? But its true. The query is everything, unless you plan to use the back door of self-publishing. And do not send out a query until you’ve had a lot of feedback. I can only recommend one site for this: A wonderful site with great feedback, and fueled as always by the give-and-take karma principle. These people are nice, but they can be brutal. Good practice for the next phase, querying—toughens up your skin a bit. But take the critiques graciously and with a pinch of salt, and know your query will be all the better for it.

PHASE: Querying

The query is polished, gleaming, riveting… everything you dreamed it would be. Now it’s time to put on the old armor and prepare to do battle with the publishing world. Okay, well, maybe not battle. Let’s be optimistic here. It isn’t You versus The Agent… but sometimes it does feel that way. Be prepared to receive rejections, both helpful and many generic forms. Keep the armor handy and don’t let anything make you give up. The key here is perseverance, just like you learned on those TV shows as a kid. When it comes to querying, it always comes to research. These are the sites you’ll need to be acquainted with:

www.publishersmarketplace.comBoth of these sites have agent directories, and lists of agent contact info, recent sales, preferred genres, and other pertinent information. Are all your agents trust-worthy? Find out here. Great advice on finding an agent and a lot of great agent interviews. Lots of great interviews with agents.

By FAR the most helpful site I’ve found for this phase of the process is:
It lists thousands of agents and publishers, as well as any other sites where additional information on the agents can be found such as interviews and marketplace listings, as well as agents’ personal websites, blogs, and twitter accounts. Plus, other querytracker users will leave frequent and helpful comments about their own querying experience with each agent. You can also run reports on how often an agent asks for partials or fulls, their average response times, and what genres they most often ask to see. There is also a forum on the site which helps you get feedback on your first five pages, your query, your synopsis, and other things. The best thing is that you can keep track of each query you send, the responses you get, and the agents you still want to query. You can personalize your list of agents you want to contact and keep track of the queries as they go out and come back in. Immensely helpful, especially if you are by nature unorganized. And it sure beats an Excel spreadsheet!

Whatever phase you are in in the writing process, there’s probably a site out there that will help. Beware anyone who asks you for money, though, unless it’s a proven service like Writer’s Digest or Publisher’s Marketplace and you want all those extra fancies that come with paid membership.

Have fun, be wary, and write on!


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