With as many varieties available out there, it can be overwhelming to know where to start. Trust me... I'm brand new at this and dove in head first. (For those of you concerned, "dove" is a correct form of "dive" in past tense. Another acceptable form is "dived." This confused me for a long time, but both are correct.)
There are so many sites to go to that wading through a search engine can be daunting. However, there are a few general topic sites that I enjoy and have found useful. I'm hoping that this blog will be a source of help, encouragement, and inspiration for my readers. For readers that are still in school, or like many of us either never learned it or forgot, there are a number of sites that can help with the "basics."
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If you are having grammar trouble or concerns, Grammar Girl is a great spot to check out (www.grammer.quickanddirtytips.com). If you have trouble with literacy in general -- or more accurately if you know someone with low literacy -- I love AVKO (www.AVKO.org). AVKO has reading and spelling tools for varying levels.
For those that are interested in a deeper level of information and assistance, a great site for writing information is Writing Tips Today (www.writing-tipstoday.com). For information on style, The Chicago Manual of Style (www.chicagomanualofstyle.org) is online and you can even ask the editors questions. A watchdog for writers is Writer Beware Blog (www.accrisoin.blogspot.com). Writers Digest (www.WritersDigest.com) provides eNewsletters and TONS of links. And Wordsmith (www.Wordsmith.org) is great for anyone who loves words and also have an eNewsletter.
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Once you feel fairly confident in your writing ability, a great challenge that I have enjoyed in the past is National Novel Writing Month (www.NaNoWrMo.org). You can keep track of your progress of writing a 50,000-word novel in November. It is an annual, growing, worldwide challenge and you are able to connect with other participants through this site and share in a support group of over 150,000 writers. During this time, you don't need to worry so much about the smaller details. The idea, in my opinion, is more about getting your thoughts down in writing that you can clean up later. It takes commitment, but it can be enormously fun! Some amazing books originated from this challenge.
Once you have a finished product, the next step is to decide on publishing options. This can be a difficult. The majority of the publishing houses out there do not accept unsolicited manuscripts (you can't send them your book directly). For these, you must find an agent.
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Agents* are there to mediate the contract, from what I understand. Agent Query (www.agentquery.com) is a great place to find agents, as is the Association of Authors' Representatives (www.aaronline.org). Some are more involved in the process than others. The Writer's Market is an annual publication that provides company names, contacts, requirements, and contact information. It is a great source for any writer wanting to get published.
I use Snow Flower Publishing, Editing & Reviews. I like to think of it as a hybrid between traditional publishing and self-publishing.
Then there is the self-publishing avenue. This is the one that I chose. Again, there are countless ways of doing this. My obvious favorite is Smashwords (www.smashwords.com). They have some great, free ebooks that will help you with formatting and promoting your ebook(s). So, even if you decide not to use them you can still benefit from the information available.
There are also Printed On Demand (POD) companies.(like www.createspace.com) These places will take individual orders to print out copies of your book. I am still deciding which one to go with on this subject, but I think that having your book printed and in your hand must be an amazing feeling. I know that having a book published as an ebook is an incredible rush. So, I'm looking forward to holding a printed copy in my hand and having my first book signing!
*With all agents and publishing houses it is always a good idea to check their websites for updated information. People change jobs and the contact person may be different. Also, most agents will let you know what they are looking for on their sites and this can change just as easily as jobs.