Learning the Ropes

You don’t know what you don’t know until you start discovering what other people in the know do know.

That’s a mouthful, but it’s true. And it’s the reason I am so thankful for all the information provided by other authors, both published and aspiring.

I have a mega-shelf of books on the craft of writing and a long bookmarked list of blogs and websites, all written by wonderful people sharing their knowledge and experience, offering advice and encouragement.

Writing (and learning writing skills) is an ongoing process. With every new thing I write, I expect it to be better than what came before it, but I know that won’t happen by itself. Continuing to write without constantly improving my skills reminds me of the description of insanity I once heard: doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

I believe it’s important to sift through the available sources of information to select the most reputable. Not all online courses are equal, nor are all writing-related websites. One thing I’ve learned from perusing the internet is how many “self-made experts” exist. There’s a difference between sharing one’s experiences to encourage others, and regaling readers with advice on how something should be done. When I encounter the latter I’m pretty cautious. I want to know the person’s credentials. I do a lot of “lurking” on prominent publishing professionals’ websites and writing forums, filtering out the information that I hope will be right for me.

Some of the websites I find most useful are listed in the sidebar, but there are many others not listed. I also enjoy following other writers’ journeys because it helps me understand my own experiences are not unique. For instance, it’s reassuring to find out how others have either avoided or dealt with the inevitable obstacles.

Group sites such as Seekerville, Novel Journey and Adventures in Writing are three of my regulars and some time ago I added Romance Writers on the Journey. Even though I wouldn’t originally have said romance was my genre, Keli Gwyn has great interviews with writers, both published and unpubbed, sharing their experiences.

This might be an appropriate point to mention that Keli interviewed me earlier this summer. She will be posting that interview on her site next week. And there will be a great GIVEAWAY involved. That’s all I’m going to say for now. You’ll have to check back Friday for more info. 😉

There is a point to all this mental meandering. I want to suggest that learning the ropes isn’t like enrolling for a single, time-limited course; it’s a life-long thing.  Searching out current, credible, and helpful resources is part of that process.

What websites have you found to be most helpful? What other resources do you recommend?


Published by Carol

A freelance writer of fiction and non-fiction living on the West Coast of Canada.

18 thoughts on “Learning the Ropes

  1. I appreciate your recommending websites on improving one’s writing. I intend to take advantage of this information. My employment was my first learning experience. I spent years as a legal secretary typing documents written by trial lawyers advancing their viewpoints in courts of law. I learned a lot about the art of persuasion through this experience. I also have mastered the mechanical art of revision. I can delete, replace, copy and paste, type and retype, all at lightening speed. Thank you for sharing your websites. I have discovered that Literary Agents often give advice on their websites. I am happy to share this: http://macgregorliterary.com/ with bloggers. Blessings to you, Carol.

    1. It’s wonderful that you have all those practical skills from your work background… a real bonus. And yes, there are several very helpful agents’ and editors’ websites. Thanks for adding Chip MacGregor’s link.

  2. What a great post! One of my bloggites told me I’m mentioned on Seekerville today. Funny you mentioned them.

    Will have to check it out!!


  3. I’ll watch for your interview, Carol. I also have a shelf filled with books on writing. I have a stack I haven’t even read yet. Part of me thinks I should stop buying more until I catch up, but the other part worries I’ll miss something. LOL. It’s all about the journey. It’s exciting to learn, to grow, and improve. And I figure if these writers can teach me one thing, I’m better off for it. Filtering is exactly what it’s all about. The other thing is finding the hours in a day to read all those exciting books. I don’t know how all those online bloggers find the time to do what they do and write too. It’s already after 9 AM and I haven’t even begun work on my WIP yet. Where does the time go?

    1. I haven’t read all of my books either… and I just ordered more! The TBR pile never seems to go down. I always read new books greedily, too fast, and have to return to re-read and digest them later.

  4. Great post, Carol. I can relate to writing be a continual, life-long learning process. I also have many writing craft books and also study novels that I think are well-executed. Part of the fun of writing is the learning involved.

    1. Thanks for adding two more resources to the growing list. (I discovered your guest post at Hartline, too. Using humour to open up people to meatier messages is a good technique and you use it well.)

  5. I can hardly wait to read the interview, Carol..I’m so excited for you!

    I have to say dial-up prevents me from being too adventuresome on the internet. I don’t look at any writing sites. I’m finding it increasingly more difficult to keep up with the blogs I follow and often chide myself for not spending more time actually writing. But there’s no point in whining over that.

    1. I remember what the dial-up speed was like… very frustrating. I can’t imagine not having high-speed now, but maybe if I didn’t have it I’d spend less time surfing and get more writing done!

  6. Great post, Mom. I’m totally with you on the importance of life-long learning. (And I’m VERY excited about the learning we’ll soon be doing at SiWC!)

    Getting feedback on our work from knowledgeable critique partners or agents/editors is also a fantastic way to learn (and help keep us from landing in that doing-the-same-thing-but-expecting-different-results rut) — kind of like being mentored, I guess. We’re lucky if we find someone to help us in that way!

    One book on craft that I’m reading right now is Nancy Lamb’s The Art and Craft of Storytelling — another great resource!

    1. SiWC, here we come! 🙂

      Good feedback is a wonderful resource. When we find just the right critique partners it’s such a blessing. I don’t know Nancy Lamb’s book… will have to look it up. Thanks for the heads up on it.

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