writing tips

6½ Free References for Writers!

Everything a writer needs

These are my favourite writing references presented in no particular order (or maybe the order in which I discovered them).

I hope you get as much out of them as I do – I am forever indebted to all of these wonderful people for their generosity.


1. Query shark
I adore this website run by Janet Reid, NYC literary agent. The site doesn’t waste energy being pretty or fancy. Janet  doesn’t lie, soften or blunt the truth. Her comments are brutal, merciless and honest.

Anyone struggling to write their first query letter to an agent time should devote a lot of time to this website (and read it thoroughly!).

I haven’t found the courage to make a submission myself…

Image from Query Shark website – I wanted to put Janet’s profile photo here but the shark image is a better representation of the site


2. Advanced Fiction Writing – America’s Mad Professor of Fiction Writing
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve referred to this website, in particular the page in the link above.

We’ve all read books written by authors who don’t understand the structure of scene-sequel and motivation-reaction – they’re the stories with effect before cause, where the character reacts dramatically before the narrator shows us the event.

I’ve summarised the Mad Professor’s teachings on scene-sequel into a single page that I’ve stuck on my wall above my writing desk.

Hopefully one day I’ll be good enough to incorporate this knowledge into my manuscript…

Image of Randy Ingermanson from Advanced Fiction Writing website


3. Narrative First
There’s a lot of discussion on the internet about the 3 Act Structure, but it wasn’t until I stumbled on Jim Hull’s website that I found peace. The article in the above link resonated with me perfectly and my story is richer for accepting a new truth – the 4 Act Structure.

narrative first
Image of James R Hull from the Narrative First website


4. Graeme Shimmin
Writing a single page query letter can be just as hard as writing the entire book. Graeme Shimmin has an ingenious way of approaching the task that laid the groundwork for my own query letter. He was also kind enough to take time out and assist me by email. Thanks Lord Shimbo! (I’m not brown-nosing – it’s his twitter handle.)

graeme shimmin
Image of Graeme Shimbo from his website


5. Kelsye Nelson
She lives on a boat!

Although the link will take you through to Kelsye’s website, it’s her Twitter account I love best. Kelsye tweets on a range of topics and makes me aware of so many other writers – that’s how I found out about KM Weiland (see number 6 below).

Thanks Kelsye for keeping me up to date with writing news and marketing techniques.

Check her out – @Kelsye – but be warned – her six word story challenges are addictive! #SixWordStory

Image of Kelsye Nelson from her website. This is my favourite profile picture of her, appropriately titled ‘Kelsye – happy photo.’


6. Helping Writers Become Authors
I only discovered KM (Katie) Weiland recently, but already I’m addicted to her posts on Story Structure, Character Arc and Common Writing Mistakes.

Not only does she present everything as clearly as we’d all like to write, but she usually does it in the context of Marvel movies!

As a writer, there’s just no excuse for not reading these valuable free lessons!

km weiland
Images of KM Weiland from the Helping Writers Become Authors website.


6½. Scrivener
Ok so it’s not really a reference, it’s a tool. And it’s not free, although it’s dirt cheap. So that’s why I’m only giving it a half.

The reason I included it is because without it, I couldn’t begin to apply everything these references have taught me. Scrivener helps me structure my entire writing, down to scene level and right back up to ideas for future novels level.

I’m still only a beginner at it, and a lot of things give me grief, but the pros far outweigh the cons.

No, I’m not on commission from Scrivener; no, I didn’t and won’t get paid in cash or kickbacks to say I love it; and yes, I recommend you try it – it just might change your writing!


What do you think? Do you have references I should have included? Let me know, I’d love to hear from you!

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