Resources for Writers By Connie J. Jasperson
I write fantasy and science fiction. If one dares to write sci-fi, the technology must be grounded in cutting-edge science. Indulging in mushy theories is a big no-no for hard-sci-fi fans.
When science fails the “theoretically possible” test, it becomes magic, and magic is a trope of fantasy.
Writers of science fiction must become futurists. They must take what is theoretically possible and think ahead. Our task is to take what science says is conceivable and make it feel true and solid.
We all agree that reading one Wikipedia article does not qualify you as an expert in your chosen subject. To go beyond the surface, we must find websites that go more into depth or speak to the experts.
Once you know what you are writing about, you can mix it up any way you want. Here are a few articles I have found useful:
Communications – This is the Future of Communication Thanks to Technology
Transportation – What’s the Future of Transportation?
Agriculture – High-rise Urban Farming
Waste management – The future of waste: five things to look for by 2025
Resource management – Resources for the Future: website https://www.rff.org/
The environment of any spacefaring society must be created of technology, or they would not be able to leave the safety of this world. Earth is the only world known to harbor life as we know it.
My current favorite way to bring humans to another world is through the use of generation ships. Entire colonies living for generations on a moon-sized ship, traveling through the cosmos, offers so many opportunities for drama. To find a plethora of ideas to investigate further, check out Futurism: Here is the Future of Interstellar Spacecraft.
I mentioned above that I write fantasy. In my case, writing a short story with a shamanistic element led me to investigate and study the writings of Joseph Campbell, Nancy Yaw Davis, and Frank Hamilton Cushing.
This little dip into traditional shamanism was a catalyst, kindling a world of ideas I could use in my Tower of Bones series, which began life as an RPG-game-based epic fantasy.
Whenever you can, speak to experts. Swords feature strongly in my work, and so I have forged connections with modern swordsmiths. My town has several fantastic blacksmiths who are glad to tell me what was possible in low-tech bladesmithing and what is possible with advanced technology. They’re always happy to talk about the history behind their craft.
And this brings me to the most fundamental aspect of writing—the nuts and bolts of grammar and story construction.
Readers assume writers somehow intuit grammar and are born knowing how to construct a readable novel. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
Authors must learn the fundamental physics of grammar and understand how a story arc works. These rules are the traffic signals that keep our work readable and engaging. Once you know the rules, you can bend them with authority, but some rules are absolute.
Ignore them at your peril.
We don’t like asking for directions, and grammar questions are like that. The grammar style manual won’t point out your ignorance—it’s just glad you cared enough to ask.
For me, writing-craft reference books must be in their hardcopy forms, but they do have online editions. I rely on The Chicago Manual of Style. It is written specifically for writers, editors, and publishers of literary and genre fiction.
It is the publishing industry standard. The editors at the major publishing houses own copies and refer to this book when they have questions.
- Chicago Manual of Style (The Chicago Manual of Style Online)
I have worn out several copies of the Oxford Dictionary of Synonyms and Antonyms. If I had to choose between purchasing this book and a thesaurus, I would select the book of synonyms and antonyms.
The Chicago Manual of Style and the Oxford Dictionary of Synonyms and Antonyms are the anchors of my reference library. Besides those two books, these are a few of the books I keep in hardcopy and refer to regularly:
Oxford American Writers’ Thesaurus
Story, by Robert McKee
Dialogue, by Robert McKee
The Writer’s Journey, by Christopher Vogler (essential)
The Sound on the Page, by Ben Yagoda
Rhetorical Grammar, by Martha Kolin and Loretta Gray
Damn Fine Story by Chuck Wendig (essential)
The Emotion Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi (essential)
You will gravitate to reference books that may be different than mine, and that is good.
Education comes in many forms, and it’s up to you to take advantage of every opportunity to learn and grow as an author.
Coursera is a wonderful organization, who offer you an education for free. While you don’t receive a diploma unless you pay for the course, you will get the education you need. Certificates of completion are available at a lesser cost if that is important to you.
Price is the determining factor for most of us, especially now with the pandemic.
However, for the financially strapped author wanting to increase their knowledge of the craft of writing, an excellent resource is the website Writers’ Digest. They are also for profit, but they offer an incredible amount of information and assistance for free.
I write fantasy and science fiction, but I highly recommend you go to websites that specialize in writing romance novels regardless of what genre you write.
The giants of the Romance publishing industry want you to succeed so they can sell more books. To that end, they get down to the technical aspects of novel construction, and they give away their knowledge for free. This is knowledge that works for writers of all genres.
Go to Harlequin.com and see for yourself.
Harlequin’s website offers many excellent tools for getting your work out the door in a timely fashion—something I need to work on. They also offer tips on marketing your work.
Harlequin also gives tips on how to create a writing space and organize your day so you can get good writing time in and still manage your family. I used to do my writing in my kitchen on an old IBM Selectric that was parked beside the gerbil cage.
Let’s just say gerbils and typewriters aren’t compatible as neighbors.
Here, in no particular order, are my favorite sources of Online Information About Writing your Novel:
I hope your writing journey has been as satisfying as mine, and that these sources of information are useful to you on the path to success. Keep writing and never stop learning.
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Connie J. Jasperson is a published poet and the author of nine fantasy novels. Her work has appeared in numerous anthologies. A founding member of Myrddin Publishing Group, she can be found blogging regularly on both the craft of writing and art history at Life in the Realm of Fantasy. You can find her books on her Amazon author page: http://bit.ly/CJJASPauthor
Follow Connie J. Jasperson on Twitter: https://twitter.com/cjjasp