5 Resources to Help You Make A Novel Worthy of Your Magic
The moment has finally arrived. You’ve worked hard. It’s taken weeks, months, or even years of blood, sweat, and tears (only some of which isn’t yours) and you finally have a completed magic system.
Awesome! … … …
A marvelous magic system deserves an equally marvelous story to go with it. No big deal, all that’s left is the simple task of becoming an awesome writer.
I hate to be the one to tell you this, but up until now, we have talked almost exclusively about one single aspect of your fiction. It’s an aspect that isn’t discussed and is a lot of fun to explore, but there are other fronts cover if you plan to win your personal, literary war.
Here’s the good news. There are tons of resources out there to help you with the rest of your journey. Today, we’re going to look at five of my favorites and how they can help you become a better writer.
Note: these resources focus predominantly on the craft of writing, not the business or writing. Some on the list will cover both topics on occasion, but there are additional business resources we will have to cover later
Disclaimer: I am not being sponsored by any of these resources. I just love them to death.
If you’ve talked with me for more than thirty seconds, you probably know I’m a fan of Brandon Sanderson’s work. Well, Writing Excuses is an epically awesome podcast primarily hosted by Brandon Sanderson, Dan Wells, Howard Taylor, and Mary Robinette Kowal and covers everything from worldbuilding, story structure, to writing likable characters.
With only fifteen minutes these guys cut right to the core of every topic they discuss. The episodes are informative, interesting, and well structured, leaving you with a clear idea of how to proceed. They even strip away your last excuse by recommending books to read and leaving you with writing prompts, exercises, and more.
More than anything else, this podcast showed me I could be a writer.
If you’re just starting out, I recommend you start with Season 10 where they look at the nuts and bolts of writing a novel. It’s a perfect place to dip your toe in the
blood water without being overwhelmed.
For more seasoned writers, check out Season 11 where they discuss the elemental genres, what they are, and how to use them. I refer to these a lot whenever discussing Stage 2, so if you plan on sticking around it will be good listening regardless.
Anyone else, be you a veteran writer or just don’t want to take my advice, I’m sure you can defeat the coming assassins on your own. Assuming you survive, consider jumping to the podcast’s most recent episodes. No matter what you do, you will be learning awesome stuff from some of the best out there.
While I go to Writing Excuses for most things craft, I turn to K.M. Weiland and her site helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com for everything story structure. Katie is an author after my own heart with her methodical approach to solving the many difficulties of writing, the plethora of resources she provides, and her light-hearted humor.
If you’re still in the process of dreaming up your next story, check out her series on How to Outline Your Novel. On the other hand, if you know everything that goes on in the story but want to make it as powerful as possible, read through her Secrets of Story Structure series. Also, because I’m a nerd, I can’t recommend the Storytelling According to Marvel series enough. She also has a series and book on How to Write Character Arcs. I haven’t read this yet, but knowing Katie, it’s worth every second.
If you respond well to structure and having things broken down into easy, logical chunks, you’ve got to check out Katie’s stuff.
The ladies over at writershelpingwriters.net have cornered a very interesting niche. As authors, we are expected, no, required to have a way with words. The truth of the matter is that some people have a way with words and others not have way. In order to end the eternal, excruciating cycle of pain and suffering, I direct you to The Writing Thesauri.
I would gladly trade my collection of rare and vintage blood types to add these priceless resources to my shelves… or I could just pay for them… whatever.
Take The Emotional Thesaurus, for example. This book contains dozens of different emotions your characters might experience, everything from terror to adoration, and breaks it down into its most useful components as a writer.
We’re not just talking about a definition here. Is your character amazed by something? Go to the right section and browse a variety of physical signals your character might display, internal sensations they might feel, mental responses they might have, and even a list of emotions it may escalate to.
And that’s just one of them. They have a whole series. My explanation doesn’t do them justice, so if you’re unimpressed, just go check one out and you’ll see what I mean.
In case you don’t know, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month and is an international event where each participant is challenged to write fifty thousand words in the thirty days of November. It happens every year, costs nothing to join, and is a very important, if somewhat odd, addition to my top five resources.
Participating in NaNoWriMo won’t teach you lessons on craft like those you’ll learn from Writing Excuses or K.M. Weiland, neither will it provide you reference material like the Writers Helping Writers Thesauri. By joining and participating in NaNoWriMo , you pick up valuable lessons that can only be taught one way.
There are a lot of skills/traits that can only be developed through writing and writing a lot. If you still have a day job and want to reach your NaNoWriMo goal, you’ll have to learn to turn off your inner editor and just write, find time to write you didn’t know you had, and develop ways to adapt as problems arise in your story.
I’m not going to lie, writing fifty thousand words in a month can be hard, but this is the best resource to help you do it. Even if you don’t reach your target, NaNoWriMo can help you find other people in your area or online that you click with. Who knows, it could even lead to a writing group or a podcast *cough* Alive and Writing *cough*
This brings us to my final recommended resource
If NaNoWriMo was an odd addition to the list, this might seem downright insane, but it’s me, so you’re probably used to it.
Grammarly has absolutely nothing to do with the structuring your story, building worlds, writing interesting characters, finding inspiration, or connecting with others. What Grammarly offers you is an easy and free way to take your prose, specifically your grammar, up a notch.
Truth Bomb: If I didn’t have spell-check and Grammarly, I don’t think I could ever be a writer!
Grammar and spelling are incredibly difficult for me. Even after years of learning, reading, and writing, it’s still my weakest point by far. And I know I’m not alone in this.
I’m not claiming Grammarly is the ultimate solution, it’s really not, but it is a great step forward for people like me that struggle with the small stuff every day of their stinking lives.
There you have it. Those are my five favorite resources to help you write a killer novel to go with your magic. Before you go, there are a couple other resources I want to mention that nearly made the list.
The Runner Ups
This isn’t a resource on writing as much as it is a resource for writers. Scrivener is a word processing software designed specifically for writers. There too many awesome features and tricks with Scrivener to even begin to cover them here. Instead, check out this video and see what you think.
I can honestly say I only write outside of Scrivener when I have no other choice (looking at you, Day Job!).
The writers over at Mythcreants have created a haven that I didn’t know I needed until I found it.
Both on the blog and on the podcast they provide a variety of information about characters, plot, world-building, magic systems, and how to strengthen your storytelling. They even offer a variety of consulting and editing services.
All of this is well and good, but the unique thing about Mythcreants is that everything leans heavily toward the tabletop gaming side of the house. Nothing wrong with that, but it did bump them off the top five.
It’s quite a mouthful, not to mention a grand claim, but it’s got some great things going for it. If you are like me, having a plan or system to follow makes all the difference in completing a difficult process. In the plan, the guys over at Novel Marketing have broken things down for you year by year and provided an impressive list of writing books to read.
This course has gone up in price recently, possibly putting it beyond the reach of many an author’s wallet, but check it out anyway. If you rely on structure as heavily as I do, it might be worth the money. If you want to know more, you can check out my review videos on Youtube.
And that’s it. There are hundreds of other resources out there, but you could easily stick with these and have almost everything you need.
Once again, my top resources are:
If these prove helpful to you, then be sure to pass them on to others. Writing is hard work and there’s no reason we can’t all work together to improve. That’s all for now. Thanks for stopping by and we’ll talk again soon.