The Reader Insider – The Web For Writers

Words by Dan Ayres

As part of our series of articles aimed at you lovely writers in Berlin and beyond, we’ve curated a selection of helpful online resources to assist you on your writing odyssey. Whilst undoubtedly the web can be a hive of distractions, what with all the viral kitties and tempting baking shows, there’s also a plethora of useful sites lurking beneath all the shiny attention-grabbers. It’s our pleasure to highlight a few of them for you:

Places to Submit Your Work

First up, an essential tool for writers of both fiction and creative non-fiction is Duotrope. This invaluable resource lists hundreds of potential homes for your work along with all the relevant info you need to submit – from online journals to print. You can find out how long it’ll take editors to reply to you, along with what percentage of submissions are accepted, and if they pay. It also allows you to keep track of your submissions as you go along, and it’s easy to find publications that align with your chosen genre. The cost is minimal, and they offer a free trial if you’d like to try before you buy.

While getting your short stories published online is as exciting as a surprise schnitzel delivered straight to your door, don’t forget to send your work to Berlin’s wonderful literary journals, all of which regularly seek submissions, including SAND, Leopardskin and Limes, The Wild Word and Transnational Queer Underground. If you’re seeking to submit beyond this fine city, a site like New Pages provides detailed lists of online spaces seeking submissions.

Opportunities for Writers

Aerogramme writers studio is a veritable cornucopia of delights for writers, with intelligent articles on the pros and cons of Creative Writing MFAs, links to literary resources, calls for submissions and even delicious opportunities like chances to win a free writers’ retreat in Iceland. 

A funded writing residency is surely much coveted by many a writer. Getting supported to write, eat and relax in a glamorous location? Oh, stop. But the sheer number of residencies on offer can be mind boggling, and the application process for each one differs. Our very own fiction guru and residency regular Jane Flett recommends the following two sites for your perusal – Res Artis and Transartists, both of which offer comprehensive listings of worldwide residencies.

Writing Prompts

Not yet at the submitting stage? Not to worry, the web has plenty of bold and bonkers ways to get you scribbling. Try the Twitter page ‘Magic Realism Bot’, which bashes out brilliant and bizarre Tweet prompts (twompts?) encouraging you to explore your surreal side. A few of our favourites: “A Madagascan witch decrees that everyone must start sleeping”; “There is a strip club in Las Vegas where dreams take their clothes off”; “A math teacher suddenly turns into a trumpet. Her lover is secretly pleased”.

If magical realism isn’t your cup of tea, there’s some more upmarket suggestions coming from The Writers Academy, part of Penguin Random House. If you feel inspired, you can even submit prompts yourself. Alternatively, Writer’s Digest has regular enjoyable prompts to get you scribbling.

Craft-based Resources

Whilst writing prompts can be helpful to get you going, sometimes its essential to look to the nuts and bolts of storytelling and the craft. If you’re too broke to buy a book on the subject, there are some ace websites out there with in depth analysis on how to craft your tale. A particular favourite of ours is Fiction University, which is a treasure trove of information for writers. Written by Janice Hardy, its packed with advice on the specifics of storytelling and also comes recommended by Jane.

Feedback

Of course, the best feedback comes in person, and we highly recommend writers in Berlin come along and join one of our various fabulous evening workshops. However, if you are strapped for time or cash, there are some great online writing forums out there. Writers Digest have a whole host of collaborative forums with topics like ‘Self-Publishing – Tips and Discussion’ and ‘Writers’ Block Party’ (not to be confused with trendy Indie outfit Bloc Party).

Fantasy lovers will want to check out the wonderfully Mythic Scribe, where writers come to discuss world building, naming characters and (genuinely) ‘how a dragon’s lifespan affects reproduction and population’.

For all its dodgy data dealings and spooky advertising algorithms, Facebook can still be a force of good for connecting us writer folk. Pages like Where Authors Begin, Women Writers, Women’s Books and Indie Authors International are worth checking out. And if you’d like to an easy to use platform to test your work on the world wide web, Medium is a great place to start.

Writing Tools & Inspiration

If it’s sheer terror you need to boost your writing, Write or Die is a horrifying and brilliant online application which deletes your words if you pause for too long. If you’re looking for something a little less satanic, check out 750words.com. Not only does it sport the friendliest font on the web, but it takes inspiration from the famously effective ‘morning pages,’ gives you a platform to write, and a challenge: write 750 words every day. It’s an achievable goal and translates to about three pages – you’ll be amazed to see how the word count racks up over the weeks.

Sometimes getting advice straight from the horse’s mouth can be infinitely helpful. The Guardian online publishes a regular series called My Writing Day, which details the the writing practices of a huge range of authors, from Philip Pullman to Caitlin Moran, who gives us the following helpful insights: “… that’s the biggest problem for writers – the constant, grumbling pain in your arse. You are hunched over your keyboard for upwards of seven hours a day, compacting your lower spine, and essentially murdering your arse with a chair.”

After all these tasty morsels of inspiration, you’ll need a programme. When Word or Pages won’t do, there’s Scrivener. Scrivener is tailor made for writers, allowing you to draft, edit and compile your work with ease. It’s not free, but if you are working on longer pieces we highly recommend it. For scriptwriters among you, I’ve found Writer Duet simple and easy to use. And as for you poets? Well, sometimes nothing can beat the old classics – a broken old pencil and the back of a beer coaster.

Manuscript Assessment & Mentoring

Now, you know The Reader offers mentoring and manuscript assessment. Yes, we do. And we are very good indeed. However, we’d be negligent if we didn’t also mention The Literary Consultancy, a peer we rate very highly indeed. Set up by the legend that was Rebecca Swift, The Literary Consultancy has been going since the days you were playing snake on your Nokia 3310. There website also offers writer FAQs and lots of great articles. Regularly hosting conferences on important topics, TLC also receives some funding allowing them to offer reduced rates to writers on low incomes.

But don’t forget The Reader began as a manuscript assessment outfit, and it’s a service still offered by our wonderful tutors and founder Victoria. If you have a manuscript you’d like us to work on, email hello@thereaderberlin.com 

Publishing

If you’ve considering going down the self publishing route, take a look at the great resources offered at the Alliance of Independent Authors. This non-profit endeavour gives self publishers a place to connect with other writers, as well as the chance for collaboration, advice and even representation. An essential port-of-call for anyone thinking of self-publishing, the AIA frequently features interviews with authors who’ve made a success of going it alone, beating Amazon’s algorithms to win themselves a readership.

For those looking for the more traditional route, the Bookseller website has plenty of news relating to publishing deals and gives a good insight into the industry. Other sites to check out are Jericho Writers, which has helpful listings of literary agents in the UK.

Myslexia is another fantastic resource for writers looking to get published. Calling itself ‘the magazine for women who write’, the website features articles useful to all writers, including this one listing 14 ways to submit. They also publish a handy Indie Press Guide, which is a great resource for those who want to approach publishers directly (without going through an agent) and those seeking out more niche publishers.

We’ll finish with this in depth article from Jericho Writers which breaks down the process of getting published. And once you have, be sure to let us know, so we can sing about it from the rooftops!

Have we missed anything off the list? If you have any fave online places for writers, let us know on Facebook or Twitter

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