Suzanne McLeod - For Writers

Author of the Urban Fantasy Series
Resources For Writers



I started writing fiction in 2003, and very soon realised that I hadn't a clue where to begin. So I looked around for ways to 'Learn How to Write'.  Below are some of the resources that I've found helpful. These links are about writing fantasy in a lot of instances, but are useful nonetheless :-).

Unfortunately I'm unable to give any individual writing advice, or read anyone else's work - so please don't send me any - I honestly don't have the time. I have my own books to write, and I already have seven great writer friends who I regularly exchange work and critiques with, plus a couple of others on a more ad hoc basis. I am also sorry to say that I am unable to pass anything along to either my publishers or my agent, but please, check out their websites for their submission details, and if you feel you meet their criteria, then I wish you all good luck in contacting them.

My advice for writers

1. Read
2. Write
3. Finish what you write
4. Get some impartial feedback.

Read: Read a lot, particularly the type of thing you like to write and enjoy reading, then try and work out why you like it. Is it because of the characters?  Or the style of writing? Or the story itself?

Write: Writing is like any other discipline. The more you practice, the more you improve. Remember, no one learns overnight to play a musical instrument, or paint a masterpiece, or run a marathon without preparing for it. You have to learn scales; learn how colours and different paint mediums interact and what effects you can create; and you have to train and build up stamina - the same applies to writing.

Finish what you write: Don't spend days, weeks, months on getting that first sentence, paragraph, chapter right. Finish the story; then go back and work on getting all of it as perfect as you can. Then put your story away and let it rest. Write something else, and finish that. Then go back to your first story, and with a little distance, you'll be able to look at it with new eyes and make it even better. Plus, if your story, or novel isn't finished, no agent, or publisher will look at it.

Get some impartial feedback: (which doesn't mean your mum :-)). Get someone else to read your writing and tell you what they think. There are plenty of places on the Internet to meet other writers. Some of the ones I've used, I've listed below. But take all feedback with a good pinch of salt; having your work critiqued should help make it better, not make you feel bad about either your writing, or yourself. And critiquing partnerships are like all relationships, the chemistry has to be right for the relationship to work as it should.

Oh, and last of all . . . Have fun. If you don't enjoy your writing, it's less likely that anyone else will :-)

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All books should be available from or can be ordered from any good bookshop

Techniques of the Selling Writer  - Dwight V Swain

Characters and Viewpoint - Orson Scott Card

How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy - Orson Scott Card

Description - Monica Wood

Beginnings, Middles and Ends - Monica Wood

On Writing - Stephen King

The Elements of Style - William Strunk

Eats, Shoots and Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation  - Lynne Truss

Not a 'How to' book, but of interest to UK writers ready to submit their work

The Writers' and Artists' Yearbook [your UK library should have a copy] is a great book with details of agents and publishers and the different genres they accept, as well as their submission criteria. It also has articles on writing advice. It has an online website here.

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These are two monthly magazines about writing. They both have online websites, and a subscription can be purchased online for anywhere in the world, or in the UK they can be purchased from larger bookstores such as Borders, or WH Smiths. They are full of info/advice for writers, as well as markets of where you can submit your work.

Writers' Forum Magazine

Writers' News Magazine

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Holly Black has some great Questions and Answers with links to writing resources on her website

Holly Lisle has lots of really excellent advice for writers on her website

Jim Butcher has some fantastic writing blogs here [based on Dwight Swain’s Techniques OF The Selling Writer]

Deadline Dames more links for writers and a joint blog of nine urban fantasy authors who blog about their books and writing

Orson Scott Card has an excellent Writing Class section on his website Hatrack River

Patrice Micelle has some great articles on writing on her blog

Randy Ingermanson runs an advanced fiction writing website and has a great newsletter about aspects of writing. He details his snowflake method [based on Dwight Swain and other writing gurus’ teachings] of plotting.  Personally I’ve found his free articles very good. I haven’t purchased any of his other articles/lessons, so cannot comment on them. 

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Evil Editor is a great blog about writing queries, if you’ve reached that stage.

Miss Snark's First Victim Blog for aspiring authors

My agent, John Jarrold runs a forum message board at SFF Chronicles with all sorts of great advice and insight into the publishing business.

A blog post I did about the benefits of critiquing at How to Get your Novel Published. There’s some good posts archived here, although the blog itself is no longer updated.

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Write Words is an online writer's community website with all sorts of great info for writers in the UK.

Online Writing Workshop for Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror, is an excellent place to give and receive critiques. I joined when I started writing, as have many other published writers, and I wholeheartedly give it my personal recommendation. The first month’s membership is free so you can ‘try before you buy’ and a year’s membership currently costs $49.

Critters is another online writers’ workshop for SFF.

Litopia is an online writers’ community.

Harper Collins publishers run a site – Authonomy - to find new writers with tips from top authors and a forum.

The Writers' and Artists' Yearbook [your UK library should have a copy] is a great book with details of agents and publishers and the different genres they accept, as well as their submission criteria. It also has articles on writing advice. It has an online website here.

Fangs, Fur & Fey is a community for fans of urban fantasy and paranormal fiction [as the title suggests], and is a great place to find new authors/books to read in the genre, plus the members are all published/or soon to be published authors and the posts include great advice, hints and tips about all aspects of the writing craft.

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Local Authority courses are always a great place to start, and to meet up with other like minded writers - Check out your local authority website for Adult Education courses for creative writing.

A more expensive option is a writers’ course.

Many universities now have writing courses - some of which can be taken on a part-time basis either in term-time or during the summer holiday. Others have online courses.  The NAWE [National Association of Writers in Education] list some of the courses available.

Verulam Writers' Circle present a one day writers' workshop GET WRITING with workshops, talks and the opportunity to pitch to an agent or editor in St Albans.

The Winchester Writers' Conference is a weekend conference with lectures, workshops and appointments to discuss your writing with published authors, agents and publishers. It is held in June.

The Arvon Foundation run various courses throughout the year, plus they also have an online community on their website.

Literature Festivals such as the Cheltenham Literature Festival often hold writers' workshops.

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Find out about face to face writers’ groups in your area.  Your local library and bookshops are a good place to ask for information.

NanoWrimo is a worldwide online community that writers can join for free. The aim is to write 50,000 words in November. They have good forums, and a lot of writers join their local Nano group, and hold face to face writing meetings and social get togethers. A great way to meet local writers and maybe even find a writing buddy.

Wishing you all Good Luck with your writing ~ Suzanne Mcleod :-)
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