The blogosphere is a wild and sometimes chaotic place, but in that vast sea of voices there are some people saying things that need to be heard. And since blogging is just a form of writing, there are naturally several blogs that dispense valuable writing advice.
The benefits of interacting with the blogosphere can be great. Not only can you pick up free writing advice from professional writers who speak from personal experience, but you can also become part of your favorite writing community by reading the posts, then reacting to them either by posting comments or writing blog posts of your own.
Diving headfirst into the blogosphere is not without perils, however. If you have the tendency to spout off without really thinking through what you’re saying, you can quickly develop a bad reputation as a troublemaker, or a troll as such folks are known online. Reading a lot of blogs can also be a huge time-waster–time that might be better spent actually writing–so it’s important to spend your blog-reading time wisely. Below is a list of some of the best blogs about writing and/or publishing, written by writers and other publishing professionals.
When you’re looking for advice about writing and how to get published, the obvious people to turn to are the ones who are making a living doing just that: published authors. Fortunately, these days many authors have active blogs on which they dispense valuable advice free of charge. Authors often talk about the process of writing, the pressure of deadlines, and the realities of life as a working writer. Additionally, most author blogs are at least in part an exercise in self-promotion; and while that’s not generally intended as an instructional enterprise, you can learn a lot about promoting your own work by observing what works (and doesn’t work) for them.
- John Scalzi (scalzi.com/whatever) — Author of several books, including several non-fiction titles–such as The Rough Guide to the Universe–as well as novels. Scalzi has been online "taunting the tauntable" since 1998. His blog, Whatever, covers numerous topics, treating them either humorously or seriously as the situation requires. His blog might be best known for his infamous "Bacon Cat" post, or for his moving essay on "Being Poor," but he writes about writing frequently enough that Subterranean Press published an entire book of his collected writings on writing, called You’re Not Fooling Anyone When You Take Your Laptop to a Coffeeshop. Although it’s available in handy book form, all of his writing-related articles are still online. And Whatever is a blog worth checking out whether you’re interested in writing or not–it’s one of the best blogs period.
- Tess Gerritsen (tessgerritsen.com/blog) — Doctor and best-selling author of medical thrillers such as Harvest and Life Support. Posts cover such topics as getting over receiving a bad review, how to decide whether or not to kill off a character, and how you can have all the action sequences in the world, but they’re meaningless if there’s no suspense. Almost every post is relevant to writing, making this a blog no writer should miss.
- J. A. Konrath (jakonrath.blogspot.com) — Author of the Lt. Jacqueline "Jack" Daniels thriller series, along with more than 50 articles and short stories. The blog is titled "A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing," and it delivers what it promises. Konrath discusses subjects such as book promotion, publishing myths, the value of reviews, and the doubts associated with writing.
- David Louis Edelman (davidlouisedelman.com) — Author of the novels Infoquake and MultiReal. Informative blog on a variety of subjects. Of particular interest to writers are his posts on self-promotion. Starting with the sale of his first novel, you can follow Edelman’s publicity plan, see what works, and what didn’t.
- Tobias S. Buckell (tobiasbuckell.com/weblog) — Author of many short stories and the novels Crystal Rain, Ragamuffin, and Sly Mongoose. A Caribbean-born science fiction writer, Buckell often discusses the issues surrounding race and ethnicity in fiction. Other useful writing posts focus on the business side of writing, such as his massive survey to calculate the average author advance for a first novel.
- Jay Lake (jaylake.livejournal.com) — Author of Mainspring and other novels, as well as more than 200 short stories. Lake posts so many blog entries one might wonder when he finds the time to write his fiction, but many of his posts are quite informative. He writes openly about the writing process–thinking out loud about what works and what doesn’t, as well as discussing strategies for keeping yourself on track, such as his own decision to quit watching television.
If a single author’s blog is good, then a blog by a group of authors is even better. Group blogs have the advantage of being more like a conversation between authors, rather than just one person’s opinion–sort of like getting free admission to a symposium on writing. The other plus side about group blogs is that with multiple authors participating, the blog is usually updated quite often and the comment threads tend to be rather lively, since everyone participating has to have their say.
- DeepGenre (deepgenre.com) — Features authors Carol Berg, Constance Ash, David Louis Edelman, Kate Elliott, Katharine Kerr, Kevin Andrew Murphy, Laura J. Mixon, Lois Tilton, Madeleine Robins, and Sherwood Smith. Always on topic, this blog delves into the definitions of genre, the business of writing, issues of craft (storytelling, characterization, style, etc.), as well as offering insights about why certain books do or don’t work, and a variety other writing and publishing topics.
- Writer Beware (accrispin.blogspot.com) — Blog of Science Fiction Writers of America watchdog group Writer Beware. Led by authors A.C. Crispin and Victoria Strauss, Writer Beware seeks out and puts an end to writing scams by exposing fraudulent agents, highlighting bad contract language, and otherwise sticking up for the rights of writers.
Editors are, of course, the people you’re trying to sell your work to, so an editorial blog would be one to watch. However, most editors have very little time to spend blogging (They all have lots of manuscripts to read, after all!), so real insight from acquiring editors in the blogosphere is a rare thing. While the following blogs are not written by acquiring editors, they provide insight into other aspects of publishing that, in the long run, can be equally as valuable.
- Deanna Hoak (deannahoak.com) — Professional copyeditor specializing in science fiction and fantasy. This is a personal blog, so Hoak often talks about subjects other than writing and editing, but if you’re looking for some insight into the copyediting process, look no farther.
- Rose Fox (Genreville @ Publishers Weekly.com) — Science fiction/fantasy/horror reviews editor for Publishers Weekly. Posts behind-the-scenes information about Publishers Weekly–the publishing industry’s top trade journal and review magazine–helping authors understand when a review of their book might appear, and just what exactly the value of a starred review is.
Like editors, you’d think that literary agents wouldn’t really have time to blog, but there are several intrepid actual working agents who devote their time to helping out all you agent-seekers out there. Agents, of course, have to be a bit cautious what they write about, but agency blogs can be very helpful to writers because not only to they provide valuable advice about submission procedures, etiquette, and the like, they can also really help you learn what these agents in particular are looking for–above and beyond what their guidelines specify.
- The Knight Agency (knightagency.blogspot.com) — Agency specializes in romance and women’s fiction. Clients include best-selling authors Tommy Newberry, Don Piper & Cecil Murphey, and Karen Marie Monig. Also check out TKA agent Nephele Tempest’s personal blog (nephele.livejournal.com).
- Jennifer Jackson (arcaedia.livejournal.com) — An agent with the Donald Maass Literary Agency. Clients include best-selling fantasy writer Jim Butcher, Derringer-Award nominee C.M. Chan, and award-winning author Jo Ann Ferguson.
- Book Ends Literary Agency (bookendslitagency.blogspot.com) — Agency represents a wide variety of clients in the fields of spirituality, self-help, business, mystery, and romance. Clients include best-selling authors Elizabeth Joy Arnold and Sally MacKenzie.
- Rachel Vater (raleva31.livejournal.com) — An agent with Folio Literary Management. Clients include best-selling authors Melissa Marr and Jeaniene Frost.
- Janet Reid (jetreidliterary.blogspot.com) — An agent with FinePrint Literary Management. Specializes in crime fiction. Clients include authors Jeff Somers, Richard Gilbert, and Bill Cameron.
- Dystel & Goderich Literary Management (dglm.blogspot.com) — Agency represents everything from parenting and women’s health books to literary and commercial fiction. Clients include bestselling authors Cindy Adams, Jonathan Small, and David Morrell.
- Kristen Nelson (pubrants.blogspot.com) — Founding agent of the Nelson Literary Agency. Clients include authors Linnea Sinclair, Sherry Thomas, and Marianne Mancusi.
The Anonymous Professionals
Some agents and editors feel the need to blog, but prefer to do so anonymously–no doubt so that they can be brutally honest (and also perhaps so that their authors don’t complain that they’re spending their time blogging, when they could be working on their manuscripts). These blogs tend to be more snarky and a bit more informal than their eponymous counterparts, but are equally (if not more) valuable for learning the answers to questions you may not have even thought to ask.
- Miss Snark (misssnark.blogspot.com) — Anonymous literary agent. Perhaps the first (and best) of this type of blog, Miss Snark has ceased updating, but the "snarkives" (blog archives) remain accessible, and there you’ll find more than a whole book’s worth of invaluable advice, including specific answers to reader questions.
- Evil Editor (evileditor.blogspot.com) — Anonymous book editor. Regular features include "Face Lift," in which Evil Editor revises query letters submitted by readers, and "New Beginnings," in which authors post the first 150 words of their books and Evil Editor and "his minions" provide a brief continuation of the book and comment on the opening.
- Editorial Anonymous (editorialanonymous.blogspot.com) — Anonymous children’s book editor. Posts excerpts of real query letters and phone calls–changing the names to protect the ignorant–for educational purposes. Also posts insider essays about what really goes on in publishing. Most advice will apply in other realms of publishing as well, not just children’s books.
- The Rejecter (rejecter.blogspot.com) — Anonymous assistant at a literary agency. Claims to reject 95% of query letters immediately and puts the other 5% in the "maybe" pile. Also an author of books. Goes over basic advice and answers reader questions.
This list is a good place to start, but don’t stop here. Once you find some bloggers you like, check out the sidebars on their website to see if they have a blogroll–a list of other blogs they typically read and/or endorse and start exploring from there. You’ll have noticed that many of these writers and publishing professionals are in the science fiction/fantasy field. But writers of any genre should find these blogs useful, and if you look around, you should be able to find bloggers to learn from in whatever genre you prefer.
This article originally appeared in 2009 Novel & Short Story Writer’s Market. Note: The article was written in January 2008, so if any of these blogs are no longer active, or no longer appear to be "elite" then that’s way (though you can always browse through their archives). If you have any suggestions for other blogs writers should be reading, please feel free to tell us about them in the comments.