By John Carey
Improving your writing is a continuous cycle of three steps: 1) writing, 2) editing, and 3) learning from others so you can do a better job of writing and editing. There are many web destinations packed with exercises, ideas, courses, writer forums, and many other helpful tools for the aspiring writer. I’ll cover some of the best I have found.
Named as one of the top six blogs for authors, Indies Unlimited offers writers a slew of tools and help. The most unique tool they offer is a Flash Fiction Challenge where you submit your 250-word entry incorporating the theme of the week. Winners are included in an annual anthology.
The Knowledge Base includes a search tool to help you quickly find what you need or a listing of numerous articles broken down by headings such as Grammar, Punctuation, Characters, Editing, and many more. The site also includes Resource Pages with numerous articles covering every facet of publishing your book.
Under the Book Promo Sites, there is an extensive list of sites for promoting your book, some at no cost and some fee-based. The site also has a Thrifty Thursday section allowing authors to list their novel for FREE, as long as it is priced less than a dollar!
Writers of the Future
This site’s trademark is the quarterly Writers of the Future writing contest and annual anthology where twelve new writers are showcased (new authors can enter their short story for free). And the site continues to grow with writer blogs, podcasts, newsletter tips, and a writer’s forum.
One of the latest additions is a free writing course consisting of videos, articles and lessons. The videos are by New York Times bestselling authors David Farland, Tim Powers, and Orson Scott Card, who are also judges in the quarterly contest. So learning what they know and like can only help in your quest to become published.
The workshop covers everything from writing an opening with a hook to make the reader want to continue reading, to the different types of story structures, to what an editor looks for. Information is provided on characterization to make your character likable and interesting. One exercise teaches when you should use narration to tell parts of your story.
There are tips for creating suspense and adding emotional impact. Later lessons cover creating dialogue which sounds real. Best of all, by the time you finish the course, you will have written a complete work of fiction, incorporating these new skills which you have just added to your writer toolbox.
Whenever I’m writing and find myself mired in quicksand concerning a grammar question, I yell out for rescue on the internet. When the search engine throws back multiple ropes, my hand immediately reaches for the one thrown by Mignon Fogarty, aka Grammar Girl.
Quick and Dirty Tips has both a WRITING section (661 articles) and a GRAMMAR section (1,339 articles) under the EDUCATION heading and are searchable to the exact article you need. The Grammar Girl section has both podcasts and articles by Ms. Fogarty.
So whether you want to know and understand the Top 10 Grammar Myths or you finally have an actual need to understand whether your character should lay down or lie down, this site is exactly what the writing doctor prescribes. And best of all, you don’t have to be a PhD in English to understand her informative explanations.
Poets & Writers
Poets & Writers has been around for 50 years and is the largest nonprofit organization serving creative writers. Their purpose is to foster the professional development of poets and writers, which is apparent the moment you step onto their information-rich website.
The site has comprehensive advice on publishing and promoting your writing, including an extensive directory for connecting to writing peers, workshops, and more. Under the Publish Your Writing section, there is a long list of writing contests. The list of literary magazines runs from A to Z and includes the editorial focus, tips from the editor, and contact information among a plethora of additional data to help you decide where and what to submit.
Under the Promote Your Writing tab, there are several sections including Literary Events, a Poets and Writers Directory, etc. You could spend days reading through everything this site has to offer a writer, or spend minutes searching down to the exact thing you need at the moment—the choice is yours!
National Centre for Writing
This website is packed with aids for writers. One great section is Early Career Writers’ Resource Packs comprising five packs: Beginnings, Method, Character, Plot and World Building. As you pull up each section, there are articles, podcasts, videos and tips to thoroughly cover that topic.
There is a complete section on courses, from free and self-paced to workshops to for-a-fee tutored courses. There is also a section Free resources for writers, broken down by several categories.
The website has six intriguing tabs: Write Better Fiction, Write Better Nonfiction, Write Better Poetry, Get Published, Be Inspired, and WD Competitions. Each section is loaded with article after article to provide you with the information you need to improve your writing. A few interesting articles include: What is a Narrative Arc (or Story Arc)? and 5 Tips on How to Write a Cunning but Cozy Mystery Novel.
Any writer would be instantly hooked after clicking on the Be Inspired tab and reading the articles and interviews there, such as Plot Twist Story Prompts: Unexplained Phenomenon.
And the final tab, WD Competitions, lists all the current competitions and awards.
Once you have completed an article or story, it is a good idea to run it through the ProWritingAid web application to see grammar, style, spelling, and passive-voice issues. Additional features include reports on overused words, length of sentences, and many more.
The site also has many articles and tools to help a writer under the RESOURCES tab. Clicking on the tool Word Explorer and entering a word such as “love” provides information such as its definition, along with a reverse search showing all words which include “love” in their definitions (god, heart, etc.). All synonyms are displayed along with words which alliterate with “love” so you can write, “The misanthrope alarmingly learned that life lasts longer when loved.” Clichés, rhymes, and collocations are also included such as really, truly, deeply.
Writing Resources has a Grammar Guide and a Blog section with numerous articles such as “How to Fictionalize Your Home Town for Your Story Setting.”
So whatever writing assistance you need is likely to be something others have previously encountered. The solution is simply a web-search away and waiting for you on one of the above sites. The next time you need a short recess from writing, instead of taking a TV break, take an information break on one of these sites. Anything you learn will improve your writing a great deal more than whatever is going on in the latest episode of Real Housewives of the Left Bank of Paris.
John Carey used his engineering degrees to pay the bills during the day while developing his writing skills at nights and weekends. He writes character-driven sci-fi about people with tough problems of revenge, redemption and survival, because let’s face it, a robot only cares about having a charged battery. You can connect to John via AuthorJohnCarey at gmail.com or explore his work on Amazon ( including his latest book, “Not Worthy of the Air You Breath.”