In last week’s article, I mentioned many of the dangers that the Internet holds for aspiring writers.
Photo Credit: Kaboompics
As I mentioned there already, the Internet is by no means a bad thing. There are many different advantages and new opportunities it holds for writers.
Many things are now possible that people fifty years ago wouldn’t even have thought about. In today’s article I therefore want to have a more detailed look at these things.
First of all though I want to reiterate my warning from last week. Never indulge in things, even if they are useful. Always get your writing done first.
The basic aim of the Internet was the transfer of information and to connect people. I first want to talk about many ways that an aspiring writer can use the Internet to learn about the craft of writing as well as many different things related to it:
There is no end to the information you can find on the Internet. This goes as well to the craft of writing. It doesn’t matter if you are just looking for help on grammatical issues, word usage or if you are trying improve you vocabulary.
You can also find detailed information about any element of the craft, for example character creation or how building up suspense. A simple Google search can often provide you with more information than you could ever need to solve problems, both small and big. The best thing here is that you can get all those information instantly. There is no need any more to go to your local library or to contact your creative writing teacher anymore.
If that is not enough, there are many forums, communities and similar pages in which you can ask specific questions about the craft.
Yet another thing the Internet can help you with is to find books on writing overall or to more specific areas of the craft. If you are looking for my personal favorites, you can have a look at the Recommended Reading section of this blog.
There are blogs on every topic imaginable on the Internet. This is especially true about the topic of writing creative writing or other related topics. I often enjoy blogs more, that give a more personal look at the writer, that talk more about his own struggles while learning the craft. There are also other blogs that are not on writing per se, that talk about art in general, philosophy or simply can introduce the writer to new ideas and viewpoints. Many of the best blogs out there are of the same quality as renowned print publications.
A word of warning though. Don’t follow on too many blogs. Find a selected few that you are most interested in and follow those. Reading blog post about creative writing all day is just another form of procrastination.
I have mentioned some interesting blogs in the Resources section of the blog.
There are two things a writer has to absolutely do, read a lot and write a lot. So learning about literature is very important for a writer.
It is interesting just how much one can learn about the Internet. Back when I had left school and started to go to university, there was just so much I didn’t know about. Looking back, there are many writers, I never heard about during my times at school. Those include for example Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, Leo Tolstoy, Fyodor Dostoevsky and John Milton, to name only a few.
If you want to learn about literature and are looking for a general overview, I’d recommend you start with this article on Wikipedia: History of literature
It provides you with a great overview of not only western literature, but world literature overall. From there you can look deeper into different periods or countries.
If you want to have a look at my personal favorites, both fiction as well as nonfiction, you should have a look at the Recommended Reading section on this page.
Here I am not talking about their works. Instead I am talking about their life, their reasons to write, their personal themes and motifs. It can be inspiring for a young writer to read about the life and struggles of other writers. Often we only know their names as those people who wrote the great works of world literature. Reading up on their life can often help to demystify them and help you to learn more about the origin of their works.
It also helps an aspiring writer to learn more about their general opinion on the craft of writing, how they did their work, and their daily routines.
A great resource for this is the website Brain Pickings. It talks about a variety of topics, but also gives a lot of information on specific websites.
In old times, the only way to do research for your novel was to either talk to knowledgeable people or to go to the library. In a small town or village there were mostly none available, so it often meant trips to bigger cities and going through the effort of searching for the right books and then borrowing them for a specific amount of time.
With the Internet, you can find information on almost any topic with nothing more than a few clicks. First there is Wikipedia, which can give you a detailed overview of certain topics and provide you with a large number of additional sources and related literature.
If you are looking for personal information, expert opinions or simply other people’s ideas and thoughts on certain topics, pages like Reddit can be of great help.
In old times networking was done face to face and if that was not possible via mail. When contacting someone via mail there was never any guarantee of an answer and it meant waiting for days or even weeks. With the Internet networking overall has become much easier. There are a few things I want to talk about here:
Face to Face:
Now the Internet doesn’t mean that you should only contact people via Email, Facebook or other similar ways. This can help to find people you can reach out to and that are close to you. Before the only way to find other writers was to go to local universities and literature related events. Now with the Internet, you can easily find all sorts of get together like book clubs, writing communities and much more. You can also reach out to local writers, bloggers and other similar people and ask to meet them for coffee or lunch.
There are varieties of different writing communities online. They can come as simple writing related forums, online communities like the writing community on Reddit or groups on Facebook. There are many other, different forms.
They can focus on the craft of writing overall, specific elements, genres or topics, or simply on providing a way of giving motivation to aspiring writers.
If you look to join a writing community I’d generally say that you should take your time to find a single one that is most to your liking, than to be active in a variety of different ones. It will only lead to you spending more and more time online.
A problem that I noticed with smaller writing groups and circles is that their focus often changes from writing to general hangouts. You should be careful about that. If you notice yourself often chatting with people instead of writing, it might be time to move on.
Agents, Editors and Publishers:
This is one of the biggest and most important changes to me. In the old days, the only way was to send out your manuscript via mail. After that you had to wait for an answer. Often you only knew about a handful of publishing houses or you had to research them at libraries or in specific publications.
Nowadays you can first find out about all sorts of publishers online and often find those that specifically deal with your type of writing. The same goes for editors and agents.
Many publishers, as well as agents and editors, now accept submissions via Email as well. This allows you to contact publishers worldwide, as long as they accept works in your language.
A word of warning here though. Make absolutely sure, that you carefully read and follow their guidelines. If you don’t just remember how easy it is to delete an email.
Now there is obviously no guarantee that they will answer you, but you can always try. Before the Internet, you could only get in touch with popular writers via mail or meeting them face to face during events or writing conventions.
Now many of them have specific blogs or author pages, where you can send them an email or contact them. Of course there is also the downside, meaning spam and the chances are much lower that anyone will answer you. Still, though I think it is worse mentioning that you have the possibility.
Another fact is, that author pages often include personal addresses and sometimes even telephone numbers. That is something that you before had no chances of finding out.
With the Internet there are now new ways on sharing your work online and on how to publish it. I want to have a quick look of two important changes:
Sharing your work:
Another great and important change. With the Internet you can easily have thousands, if not more people read your work. Before your only chance to have more people than your friends and acquaintances read your work was to submit it to a magazine or newspaper. Often the requested quality was closely related to the size and reputation of the publication. That meant that if you wanted to reach a larger number of people, you also needed to be a writer of significant skill.
With the Internet though, even aspiring writers have the chance to share their work. There are online publications, writing groups and communities. A great example is for example the Subreddit Nosleep. It is an online community that focuses on short horror fiction, which is frequented by millions of people.
The Internet allows people of almost any skill level to share their work. This can help you in two ways. You can get criticism on how to improve, but it can also help you to build a first, small audience.
This is the last thing I want to have a short look at. The traditional route of publishing a novel has been to send it to an agent or a publisher in the hopes of being accepted.
Self-publishing is a new option that has gotten more and more popular in the last decade. There are many pages, such as Amazon that allow writers to publish their work on their own. There is a vast number of guides and tutorials on the topic online available.
It can often be hard for aspiring writers to judge the quality of their own work. You have to absolutely make sure, that your work is of a high enough standard and was professionally edited. Otherwise you might be in for a hard awakening.
To me these are the most important changes and ways that an aspiring writer can make use of the Internet.
There are of course many different things, such as how-to-guides, podcast, video series, top-lists of books, as well as sites as Goodreads. Talking about all those would have gone beyond the scale of this article though. Instead I decided, to focus on the things that I deem as most important.