Writing Resources

For years I’ve been bookmarking useful websites with the intention of sharing these resources with the (writing) world at large. Please note this is a work in progress and I will be adding links and annotating them as I get time – and, periodically, checking to make sure the links still work.

If you have any suggestions for additions, please post a comment on this page and at some indeterminate point I’ll get around to checking out your suggestions – but as this is a curated collection (i.e. stuff I’ve personally found useful), I reserve the right to  ignore your suggestions in much the same way my son ignores almost all of my suggestions on personal grooming.

Submissions

  • Ralan.com – Market listing for speculative genres (science fiction, fantasy, horror and many other genres and sub-genres). Includes listing for short fiction (organized by pay rate: pro, semi-pro, pay and token), book length works, and contests. I am reluctant to enter contests unless the contest has no entry fee and the rights grab is reasonable. However, there is one contest that is worth entering, if only because there is no rights grab at all, and the (very reasonable $5) entry fee supports an organization I think is worthy of support:
    • The Friends of the Merril Short Story Contest . “The Merril Collection, originally the Spaced Out Library and later renamed for the late Judith Merril, is the foremost North American public assemblage of Speculative, SF and Fantasy Fiction and is an invaluable tool for enthusiasts, researchers and authors.”
    • For other Canadian contests (largely literary magazines), there is a good listing on the CBC website in their Books sections.
  • The Submission Grinder – “The Submission Grinder is a submission tracker and market database for writers of fiction and poetry.” Just what it says. I’ve kept my own stats on pro markets for a few years because I like sending new work to places that respond the fastest (of course the work must also be a good fit for that market) and my stats are pretty congruent with  what you find here.
  • Manuscript format for submissions – William Shunn (often cited on submission pages)

Residencies

  • The Writers’ Trust. A site that lists residencies for Canadian writers. Also includes information on other programs for writers.

Organizations

  • SF Canada. “SF Canada exists to foster a sense of community among Canadian writers of speculative fiction, to improve communication, to foster the growth of quality writing, to lobby on behalf of Canadian writers, and to encourage the translation of Canadian speculative fiction.”
  • Science Fiction Writers Association (SFWA). “Founded in 1965, SFWA is an organization for published authors and industry professionals in the fields of science fiction, fantasy, and related genres.”

Contracts ‘n tax ‘n other legal stuff

Grant Programs

Other Income (lending and copying rights, etc)

  • Public Lending Right Program – “The Public Lending Right (PLR) Program sends yearly payments to creators whose works are in Canada’s public libraries.”  For Canadian authors.
  • Access Copyright – “We manage licensing, collection of licensing fees and distribution of royalties on your behalf so that you can focus on what you do best – creating! Payback: You will be eligible to receive our annual Payback payment. Each year, all eligible affiliates receive a share of the Payback payment depending on how much they contributed to the repertoire of works licensed by Access Copyright.” For Canadian authors.
  • Authors Licensing and Collecting Society – “We make sure you receive the money you’re entitled to as a writer when someone copies or uses your work. We collect money from all over the world, then pay it to our members. ” Similar to Access Copyright, but based in UK. Canadians are eligible to join.

Reference

Yes, I still buy books, even though there are few in the list below. Over time, I will add print and ebooks I’ve found most valuable. For now, though, I’m focusing on (mostly free) online resources.

General Reference Works

  • Wikipedia, of course. It’s always my starting point, but not the be all and end all when I need more than a cursory overview. When it’s not enough, my next step is to use Google Scholar and search for non-Wikipedia articles. Tip: over the years I’ve found many of my queries have begun with “list of”, “parts of” or “types of” when I need to find the right kind of object or concept (“types of ships”, “types of magic”, “list of religions”, “parts of an engine”, etc).
  • Google Scholar. Search engine for both full text and metadata of scholarly work (i.e. peer reviewed journals, conferences, etc).
  • Encyclopedia Britannica. Somewhat free. I’ve used it occasionally, probably more because of a nostalgic pang (my parents had the full set) than for any other reason.
  • Internet Archive and Wayback Machine. “Internet Archive is a non-profit library of millions of free books, movies, software, music, websites, and more.” The Wayback Machine is part of the Internet Archive and contains snapshots of web pages over time. If something you wanted has disappeared from the Internet, you may be able to find it here. Or not.
  • Library of Congress Digital Collections
  • Courses/lectures on various subjects:

General Science

  • Dan Koboldt’s Science in Sci-Fi, Fact in Fantasy is, “a blog series for authors and fans of speculative fiction. Just as science fiction often has roots in hard sciences — physics, astronomy, genetic engineering, microbiology — fantasy world-building relies on everything from economics to military strategy to animal husbandry. Each week, we discuss elements of sci-fi or fantasy with an expert in a relevant topic area. We debunk the myths, correct the misconceptions, and offer advice on getting the details right.” A must read if you’re not completely assured in the science you use in your stories. Often points out egregious errors in the use of science/technology.

Biology and Medicine

Geography & Environment & Maps

Society, Architecture, Professions and Life

History

Weapons, War & Violence

Physics

Astronomy, Astrophysics, Space flight

  • Universe Today – Space and Astronomy News. Contains a Guide to Space, an overview of articles on the site organized by topic – solar system, outer space, space exploration, etc.
  • Science Alert – “ScienceAlert is an independently run news website that covers the most important developments in the world of science and scientific research, while sharing fun, interesting information.”
  • Winchell Chung’s Atomic Rockets for SF Writers – Everything you’d ever want to know about spaceflight. If you’re setting your work in space, and not absolutely confident in your science, this is the site to visit. Includes sections on spaceship and engine design, mission operations and infrastructure, crew and gear, war in space, and the implications for future spacefaring nations and cultures. This site nicely summarizes a dozen reference books I used to use on the physics of spaceflight, design of space stations, etc (and lists some  of these books as suggested reading, including one on “designing” plausible aliens).
  • The Physics of Interstellar Travel : Explorations in Science :: Official Website of Dr. Michio Kaku
  • A Black Hole Engine That Could Power Spaceships – black holes – io9
  • Black Hole Thermodynamics
  • An Atlas of The Universe
  • HowStuffWorks
  • NASA
  • Cosmic Watch App – Very cool. “The Cosmic Watch is an interactive 3D tool. It’s a realtime worldclock, time travel machine, astrolab, antikythera mechanism, orrery, armillary sphere, astral-chart generator and solar system simulator.”
  • Habitable Zones. “Using this website, you can calculate the habitable zones of single, binary and multiple star systems.”
  • Launch Pad Astronomy Workshop. “Launch Pad is a workshop for established writers held in beautiful high-altitude Laramie, Wyoming. Launch Pad aims to provide a ‘crash course’ for the attendees in modern astronomy science through guest lectures, and observation through the University of Wyoming’s professional telescopes.”

Worldbuilding

Language & Dictionaries

Sound

  • freesound. Database of sounds – I know, sounds aren’t words, but I’ve found it helps to listen to a sound before describing it in words.
  • Soundsnap. Same as previous.
  • Mood music. “Original, 10 minute ambiences and music for your games and stories.” Also includes SoundPad, wherein you can create your own soundscapes. Useful as mood music for writing (if you’re into that sort of thing) and for those who concoct multimedia stories.

Social Media For Readers (and Writers)

Educational (and otherwise) Cool Things I’ve Collected Over the Years

On Writing

On Teaching/Learning Writing

  • Coursework Home Page [ the OpenFiction Project ]
  • Speculative Fiction Writing Workshops. Kelly Robson’s excellent list includes Clarion and Clarion West (I attended the latter, which I highly recommend). I’ve also attended numerous other non-SF writing workshops and retreats, and have been a member of several writing groups, both SFnal and non-SFnal. My recommendation? Go with an SF workshop or group – if you can find one. You’ll hear a lot fewer critique comments prefaced with, “Well, I generally don’t read this sort of thing, but….” On the other hand, if you live in a smaller community where SFnal groups are hard to find, a regular writing group can also useful, as long as you remember that the people who are trying to critique your work are unfamiliar with the conventions and tropes of the genre – which means they may give you questionable suggestions and/or miss redlining things, like cliches, that would otherwise be familiar to those who read in the genre.

Grammar and Style

Writing ideas

  • 25 Moral Dilemmas | Pixi’s Blog. In general, good fiction is about creating tension, and there is no better way to create tension than putting your character in a moral quandry – and, when people ask you, “Where do you get your ideas?”, you can give them this URL.

On Science Fiction and Speculative Fiction