I began writing seriously just over a year ago. I seem to have spent a fortune in that time on computing, subscriptions and even travelling to an (extremely helpful and useful) writers’ conference. This was money well spent but my pockets aren’t infinitely deep! Fortunately, I’ve found many free resources along the way and I share my favourites here.
Plotting /Story Structure
Hollywood script consultant, writing craft author and writing coach Michael Hague’s 6-stage approach to story structure is one of the most respected and widely used methods I’ve come across. Hague focuses on the three elements of story: character, desire, and conflict. When considering Hague’s advice, remember that like a screenplay, a novel is also made up of scenes. I recommend signing up to the VIP Email List on the Coaching page, as you’ll get a free list of Story Questions. Suggested pages:
Screenplay Structure Five Key Turning Points
C.S. (Susanne) Lakin is a novelist who publishes writing craft books/workbooks and hosts Live Write Thrive. Her books are available for free via Kindle Unlimited, which offers a three-month free trial. There’s a lot of great free content on the website but I find it a little hard to navigate, and suggest using the books if you can, where everything in each area is brought together. Look out for free ebooks/guides in return for signing up to Lakin’s newsletters and online courses e.g. the Fast Trackers email group. For me, the email blasts can be a bit too focused on promoting paid resources e.g. courses but they can have helpful content too. Here are links to a number of Lakin’s print outs, which I have found to be her most helpful resource:
First 20 Scenes for Romance Novels (Chart). For elaboration see: 20 Key Scenes for Writers of Romance Novels
8-Step Scene-Building Worksheet
Action Reaction Second Layer Chart
Checklist for Critiquing Your Novel
Inspection Checklist 1: Concept with a Kicker
Inspection Checklist: 2 Protagonist with a Goal
Inspection Checklist 3 Conflict with High Stakes
Inspection Checklist 4: Theme with Heart
Inspection Checklist 5: Plots and Subplots in a String of Scenes
Inspection Checklist 6: Secondary Characters with Their Own Needs
Inspection Checklist 7: Setting with a Purpose
Inspection Checklist 8 Tension Ramped to the Max
Inspection Checklist 9 Dialog Compressed and Essential
Inspection Checklist 10: Voice Unique for Each Character
Inspection Checklist 11: Writing Style Concise and Specific
Inspection-Checklist 12: Motifs for Cohesion and Depth
Write and editor Tim Stout’s blog focuses on graphic novels, but his break down of The Blake Synder Beat Sheet is a useful plotting resource for all fiction writers.
Blake Snyder’s Beat Sheet, by Tim Stout
New African Romance publisher Ankara Press has put together a comprehensive guide to writing a short romance novel for them. Luckily for aspiring romance authors, their notes on character, plot (including a chapter outline guide) and point of view offer valuable guidance that can be applied to other genres.
General Writers’ Resources
At well-storied the lovely Kristen Kieffer aims to help you ‘find the tips, tools, and communities you need to build your very best writing life.’
Click the free resources link below for access to the Well-Storied Podcast, a Write With Purpose workbook and The Essential Resource Guide for Writers. The latter is a 6-page pdf listing further well-stories resources; apps; writing craft books; editing, publishing, author website and marketing tools; and writing communities and blogs. (Some of the resources are affiliate links. These is clearly labelled.)
Well-Storied.com: Free Resources
Here you will find articles on freelancing, marketing, blogging, publishing and craft from a wide range of contributors.
The Khan Academy offers a free grammar course. This includes video tutorials, exercises and tests. Great for finding your grammar weaknesses and working on them.
Beginners’ Guide to:
Writing for Theatre and Film, with Further Resources. (Thank you Anna!)
You’ll find a wealth of writers’ groups on Facebook, aiming to provide advice and support. Proceed with caution.. There are people out there who’ll tear you apart in public just to make themselves feel clever and/or superior. I left one group where this kind of behaviour was the norm.
My recommendations for friendly groups are:
Your Write Dream (Hosted by Kristen Kieffer)
But remember admins can only react to negative comments, not predict them. You can help them by reporting inappropriate behaviour. You can also turn off commenting on your own threads or delete them. Block people who upset you, and always review whether you are benefitting from your membership of a Facebook group.
Finally, you can check Meet Up to see if there are any writers’ groups in your area. What I said about Facebook groups applies here too. Basically, people at these things aren’t always nice. A good idea is to observe a couple of meetings to get a feel for the group and its members, before submitting a work for critique. NB The Meet Up website is free to use. Group organisers are allowed to make a charge for meetings to cover their costs. If more than about £4/$6 is being asked for, this may be a business person taking advantage of Meet Up which is intended for organising community groups only.
Get in Touch
I hope you have found this list helpful. Do let me know if I have missed out your favourite free online resources and I’ll update this page.
Featured image: Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash