Right now, this is just some links, but it will grow over time. As I've said elsewhere on the site, I have lots of stuff I plan to add to this here site, and stuff for this area is amongst it.

I've had some good feedback from the online and real-world classes Stacia and I co-taught recently, so we're deciding dates for more classes in 2010. I'll post info about those classes here when we determine dates.

Please note that I'm also available for personal writing and editing assignments, so feel free to contact me for more information about such things.


Writerly Groups

Sisters in Crime http://www.sistersincrime.org/

Make sure to check the whole site, including

The blog http://sisters-in-crime-sinc.blogspot.com/

Events Listing http://www.sistersincrime.org/events/

And a MySpace presence http://www.myspace.com/sistersincrimenational

Mystery Writers of America http://www.mysterywriters.org/

And again, make sure to check out the whole site, including

The events calendar http://www.mysterywriters.org/?q=mwaevents

My place there http://www.mysterywriters.org/?q=user/1473

The Romance Writers of America site http://www.rwanational.org/

Again, check out the whole site, including events http://www.rwanational.org/cs/conferences_and_events

And chapter listings http://www.rwanational.org/cs/about_rwa/chapters_listing/us_chapters

Make sure to notice the special interest chapters, many of which offer various types of classes, including some on writing: http://www.rwanational.org/cs/about_rwa/chapters_listing/special_interest_chapters

And these include an especial fave of mine http://www.rwamysterysuspense.org/

And this one has some classes, too http://www.elementsofrwa.com/

The Big Thrill http://www.thrillerwriters.org/ for the Thriller Writers.

Lambda Literary Foundation http://www.lambdaliterary.org/ the organization for LGBT writers and readers. They also put out a terrific magazine and have a great writer's retreat.

Media Bistro http://www.mediabistro.com/ is the place for media professionals. They offer a variety of tools, services and other things, including online and IRL classes, seminars and other learning experiences on a wide range of topics.


Recommended Books

I really need to work on this section. I've read a lot of books on writing, but many were a while ago and many more were even longer ago than that, so I'm not sure just how good they are, and I've never been one to recommend things that I don't believe in whole-heartedly. Anyway, as I find new books, I'll list them here. I'll also talk about them on my blog at http://reeseszymanski.livejournal.com/.

For now I'll list the books I know are terrific and give a few ideas about reading for writers. Reading for writers and books writers should own.

A good dictionary. Almost every writer needs at least one of these. Some publishing companies have a designated dictionary they use, so everyone's doing things the same way (just like publishers, newspapers, organizations, etc., have designated style guides, a lot also have designated dictionaries). As for me, I always take a dictionary (and some other books) to work, and keep a few dictionaries and thesauruses deployed around my living space. I mostly like Merriam Webster but I do have an old copy of the Compact Oxford English Dictionary.

A good thesaurus. Almost every writer should have at least one thesaurus as well (I have one for the office, and a few for home myself). One very important thing to beware of is thesaurusitis. This terrible affliction causes one to find a different word for every other word on the page, almost always making the page incomprehensible garbage. Just because a word is listed as a synonym for another word doesn't mean that the two words mean the exact same thing—there are variations in meaning. Also, although you might know—or be able to find—the perfect word to describe the color and texture of the wallpaper in a room doesn't mean your reader will know the word, and it's usually pretty important for the reader to understand what you're writing. A lot of readers might be willing to occasionally pick up a dictionary when reading, but if you make them do it too much, it's very likely that they won't finish the story, and you really don't want that happening. A few folks who submitted to my anthologies suffered from this affliction, enough that I feel it necessary to mention it here. One woman truly did have an amazing vocabulary—and I really could tell that it was her vocabulary and not brutish use of a thesaurus—but the fact remains the same: Your readers have to understand what you write. By the way, I, like most people, prefer dictionary-style thesauruses. I'm not sure if they even make the old-style type anymore.

A good usage guide. Again, this is something that a lot of writers could benefit from. Usage guides give you help on how and when to use which word. Like if you're not sure if you need affect or effect. Some things you might be able to figure out with a dictionary, but usage guides can often help you better and faster and with lots of other word usage problems.

Style guides can also be helpful, like the Chicago Manual of Style and The Associated Press Stylebook, which is used by most newspapers and journalists, although a lot of other people use it as well. Some publishers, companies and other organizations and publications use a particular style guide while others develop their own for in-house use.

Almost any book and a great many other places where words hang out. Writers can learn a lot simply by reading. If you're reading a horrific book, try to figure out why it's bad or why you don't like it, so you'll know that you shouldn't do whatever it is yourself. Meanwhile, study books you love to see why you love them, why they're great, why you're staying up until three in the morning reading them so you can try to do some of the same things yourself. Of course, if the book's so great that you've flown through it, you might not remember to study it or really analyze it. At least not during the first reading. So read it again so you can figure it out. Or at least try to. And you might not understand all the reasons you like or dislike something, or might not be able to do things the writer you like has done, but studying it will still likely help you become a better writer bit by bit—just remember, don't plagiarize, don't steal. There's some fine lines between learning and stealing at times, so please be careful and respectful of other people's work and stories.


Recommended Writing Books

The Elements of Style by Strunk and White. Must-have reading and reference for every writer.

Don't Sabotage Your Submission by Chris Roerden
Note: This book is a slight rewrite of Don't Murder Your Mystery. Don't Murder Your Mystery was such a great success and had so many people saying that it was a great book for writers of all sorts, not just mystery writers, so the publisher wanted to redo it. Chris tightened Don't Murder Your Mystery, added some new material and Don't Sabotage Your Submission was born. If you've already read the first, you don't really need to read the second, but you can if you'd like. Regardless, the book is fantastic for all different types of writers.

On Writing by Stephen King. Do I even need to explain why this is on my list? Not really, but I will say that it’s got some bits of King’s own backstory, some great writing advice, and some great thoughts on writing books and genre fiction.

Playwriting: How to Write for the Theater by Bernard Grebanier and The Art of the Playwright by William Packard. These are the books that, along with Crazy Arthur Athanason taught me playwriting and gave me a firm grasp on storytelling and crafting good stories. As anyone who reads my blog http://reeseszymanski.livejournal.com/ knows, I think studying other genres and forms of writing can give one different views and perspectives, round out one’s writing knowledge, and add to one’s writing toolbox.

The Poetics by Aristotle. Fairly short, concise and filled with great ideas and things to help people craft great stories, for the page or stage. Plus, it’s where it all started (writing books, that is).

Story by Robert McKee. It’s for TV and movie writers, but all other types of writers can learn from it too. It’s a hefty book, greatly overwritten, but it’s well worth the time it takes to read, even if it should be cut to half its size.


Recommended Writing Books

Some writers are born to it, able to write brilliantly from the womb. All writers have to actually write to be writers, authors. Writing books, classes, seminars and conferences can help many people become better writers, but almost all writers need to research to get things right. And there’s a lot of research needed to write, depending a bit on what one’s writing. Some writers love the learning/researching parts of writing because it means writers are always reading and learning. Think about it—next time you're reading a magazine, think about what writers went through to write the articles in the magazine. Sure, there are a lot of articles about celebrities and things like that, but there's also articles on powder-puff mechanics, homeschooling, and a lot of other stuff people aren't born knowing. Think about it next time you're paging through TV Guide or your Netflix Queue. Whoever wrote about scientists living in the wild studying baboons had to do some research, too.

I've had to research tons of things along the way, some of which my readers can probably figure out, but also things like... Well, for instance, if I’m selling accounting and tax software to practicing accountants and tax practitioners, I have to know about who I’m selling to, about the products, and about how they’ll use the products and how the products will help them. If I’m writing a proposal for a nonprofit grief and loss center, I need to know what program I’m asking money for, what the program will do, who will do it, how it will help people, and more.

And if I’m writing a mystery, I need to know about police, forensics, and a whole lot more. Writer’s Digest put out a series of Howdunit books a few years ago. I’ve got quite a few of the books in the series, and read a few of them, front to back. I keep them around for research needs, but I do take what they say with a grain of salt, since I did find a few incorrect facts in one book. Those problems decreased the value of the entire series for me.

Writer’s Digest has a lot of research books and you might want to check them out for any research needs you have. For now, though, I’ll make a few recommendations:

There are lots and lots of other books by and for police and detectives and books about all aspects of crime and investigation, so there’s no reason to get the facts wrong. Pick up a book and learn forensics, blood work analysis, criminal defense or prosecution, poisons, surveillance, or almost anything else you need info on or facts about. Wrong data can tear apart plots, annoy the crap out of readers, and make them never read another of your books ever again. Some readers might be very forgiving, but others are not.

One side warning however, you might find a few really awful books while doing your researching. Some ex-cops and other people really shouldn’t try to write. Or, if they do have some amazing stories to tell and they really, really want to share them, they should find a ghostwriter.


Recommended Books for Some Other Types of Writing

With my varied career as a writer, I feel compelled to at least mention some of my other favourite writing books, books that others might find interesting or indispensable as well.

Words That Sell: The Thesaurus to Help You Promote Your Products, Services, and Ideas by Richard Bayan. If you’re going to write for advertising, marketing, or to make people give you their money, you need this book on your desk.

The master of direct mail writing is Bill Bly, but before him there was Herschell Gordon Lewis, who also did some amazing work and laid the groundwork which Bly built on. (He apparently also did some really interesting work in the world of horror films.) Direct Mail Copy that Sells! By Herschell Gordon Lewis and The Copywriter’s Handbook by Robert W. Bly are two must-reads for anyone going into direct mail writing. I also think they’re great for anyone going into advertising or marketing, especially those going into the writing parts of those disciplines.

Guide to Proposal Writing by The Foundation Center. The Foundation Center is a great resource for grantswriters, non-profit organizations, whose who write grants for them and many others. This book is a pretty good introduction to grants and writing them. It includes information on how to research, write, package and submit grants.

Writing for a Good Cause: The Complete Guide to Crafting Proposals and Other Persuasive Pieces for Nonprofits by Joseph Barbato and Danielle S. Furlich gives a bunch of information on writing proposals and other fundraising materials. This book gives a lot more information on the world of nonprofit development than the Foundation Center’s book—as well as about other things than grants. For instance, it emphasizes the importance of thank you letters. I found it a lot more interesting and comprehensive than the Foundation Center’s book plus its examples and scenarios underscore important parts, brings things to life and really drives things home.