Writing Resources

On Craft

  • Steering the Craft by Ursula K. le Guin (I do writing exercises from this whenever I’m feeling stuck)
  • A Swim in a Pond in the Rain by George Saunders
  • Craft in the Real World by Matthew Salesses (would recommend especially to BIPOC writers)
  • Beginnings, Middles, and Ends by Nancy Kress (I bought this when I was in high school and its lessons have been engraved in my bones ever since. Good especially on dealing with the frustrating, ‘soggy’ middle.)
  • 2K to 10K: How to Write Faster, Write Better, and Write More of What You Love by Rachel Aaron (I took this book with a grain of salt. I will never be one of those 10k words a day writers; speed drafting just doesn’t let me put the amount of thought I want to in every scene. But there are some good tips that help me be more deliberate about my writing sessions.)
  • Save the Cat (Amazing. I play around with the basic beat sheet every time I’m outlining a new project. There’s a book version I haven’t read in full, but lots of friends say it’s great. Good if you’re stuck on plot structure. My work has always been pretty cinematic, and this is why.)
  • The Three-Act Dramatic Structure (I plotted each TPW novel against a three-act structure. It’s the four-wheel drive of plot structures; when in doubt, think of your WIP in three acts.)
  • The Five-Act Dramatic Structure (I switched to a five-act structure half-way through writing Babel. I think it’s more useful for big standalone novels.)

On Publishing/Industry Know-how

  • Manuscript Wish List (MSWL) – database of agents and editors with information they’ve shared on what sorts of projects they’re interested in seeing
  • Writer’s Digest – advice is a bit generic and 101 as it’s not genre specific, but I found its articles very helpful when I was just first starting out and didn’t understand any industry jargon
  • Pub Rants by Kristen Nelson – I found this blog very helpful when I was querying literary agents. The “What Makes a Good Agent” article series especially has a treasure trove of how to navigate the process of choosing an agent.
  • Hannah Bowman’s Tumblr – Hannah (my agent) will probably be so embarrassed I’m linking to a blog she hasn’t updated since 2015, but I read lots of entries from it back in 2016 when I was querying. Lots of good AMA answers on her thoughts on the industry and what makes a good query. (This also made me pretty certain that I wanted to work with her.) More generally, lots of literary agents keep social media accounts like this one, and looking folks up and seeing what they’ve written about publishing before you send them queries is just good research.
  • Writer Beware – Helps you keep an eye out for scams and predator agencies/publishers. Tons of shady entities out there trying to make a quick buck off aspiring writers.
  • “Going on Submission” by Zen Cho – Zen Cho is at my literary agency, and I read this blog post they wrote right before I went on submission myself. Nice, detailed description of what you can expect from the process, and how to manage your expectations throughout.

Workshops

  • I had no formal writing education before I sold The Poppy War. While I was drafting The Dragon Republic, I attended Odyssey, which was life-changing and taught me probably 70% of everything I know about craft. Wonderful choice if you’re contemplating a SFF workshop. Here’s my Odyssey testimonial – I do mean every word. I know lots of other folks who have been to Clarion, Clarion West, and Viable Paradise, but can’t speak to their quality – have never been.

On Digital/Tech Resources

  • *Disclaimer: TONS of resources like this exist! My list does not cover what is newest or best; just what has worked and still works for me. I’m a creature of habit; don’t fix it if it isn’t broken.
  • Scrivener (Word processing software leagues easier to write with than Microsoft Word. I draft exclusively in Scrivener; I only switch to Word for late-stage edits where I need to show track changes to my team. 100% worth the money IMO, but there’s a free trial so you can see if it’s for you. Works great on my Mac)
  • Alphasmart Neo 2 (Nothing is better for helping me reach a flow state. NOTHING.)
  • The Most Dangerous Writing App (Except for this.)
  • Pomodoro Timer (there are a number of apps for this, but they all use the same principle – you work uninterrupted for 25 minutes, then break for 5. I use this a lot not just while writing but also when working on course papers.)
  • 4thewords (Lovely if you struggle with daily motivation and staying consistent with your word counts. I used this a bit when I was drafting The Dragon Republic.)

On the Writing Life and Balancing Writing and Life

  • “Writing Begins With Forgiveness” by Daniel José Older (A close friend sent me this piece recently when I was venting about balancing writing with grad school and feeling like I couldn’t do it all. Words I badly needed to hear.)
  • How to Write an Autobiographical Novel by Alexander Chee
  • The Possessed by Elif Batuman (Possibly this is only interesting or helpful to people in that particular intersection of literary studies and literature like me. But lots of people who reach out to me for writing advice are indeed in that particular intersection. Elif Batuman is also one of my favorite novelists alive.)
  • On Writing: A Memoir of Craft by Stephen King (Helpful more for what not to do than what to do. I think King would agree.)