18 Links: Revisited // The Ones I Actually Use

Two years have passed since I first put up a post titled 18 Links Any Writer Can Use. Since then, I’ve streamlined my writing process, the links I actually use on a daily or weekly basis, and decided it was time to update that old list. To quote the original post:

With so many voices giving advice (both good and bad),
how do you even begin to choose what’s right for you?

In this 2020 update I’ll share what thoughts I remember from 2018 and why I included it. Keep reading to find out which links withstood the test of time.

85 Hashtags Writers Need to Know | Amanda Patterson

2018: Then I had no idea what social media hashtags were popular in the #writingcommunity. This list looked to be the less intimidating of what I found to share. I didn’t need a 250 point list. Or a 120. Or, or or or or. Eighty-five seemed like a great, low number with just the right variety to get started.

2020: Now I use only a select few. The world of hashtags is its own beast and, unless you’re willing to read through all those threads, those hours online could be better used outlining or working on your manuscript. Find the two or three or four – ones that fit your genre, or ones that truly connect you to others in your field – and stick with them. You can, of course, switch it up.

Do I still use this link? No.

100 Best Websites for Writers in 2018

2018: Then: a confession. I used this link a LOT to compare my site to those most popular. I used to agonize over design, usefulness, the quality of their short stories, and the fact they had published books. It took a while to realize: that’s not what this list is supposed to be used for.

2020: Now, I look at these lists for inspiration and connection to authors and writers I otherwise may have never known. Instead of measuring up my own self worth against those who’ve worked diligently and far longer than I on their writing careers, it’s now a dream. Let’s face it – I’ve got a long way to go!

Do I still use this link? Yes.
But the 2020 version.

Allegheny County Library Association Card Catalog

2018: Then: I used this website a LOT throughout my early research stage. As I didn’t truly know where to begin, it was in 2018 I discovered the term “research rabbit hole,” and my local librarians were more than happy to oblige.

2020: Nowadays I utilize the Library of Congress’ “Ask A Librarian” link. This is mostly due to issues with my car (I don’t trust it to get me that far) and the fact that my library was closed for four months due to the pandemic. While Northland does have an entire row dedicated to Southwest Pennsylvanian history, the information I needed later on in my research journey became increasingly specific.

I’m not saying your local online card catalog isn’t worth it. If you dig deep enough, other equally fantastic resources are most certainly out there.

Do I still use this link? No.

Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh Oliver Room

“Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh holds many rare and unique collections of historical importance, especially those that illuminate the rich cultural heritage of Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania. These historical collections are held at the Main Library in Oakland, as well as in neighborhood libraries throughout the City of Pittsburgh.”

Source – CLP website

2018: One of Andrew Carnegie’s philanthropic goals was to make resources available to the American public. As a result, Pittsburgh has its Oliver Room. I had every intention to make an appointment to visit this special place.

2020: However, as life would have it, I completely forgot about the Oliver Room. I still think it’s a fantastic thing to have resources such as this. It’s always worth it taking a look into your own town’s or city’s historical archives. Do I still hope to visit for a future project? You bet!

Do I still use this link? No.

The Editor’s Blog: How to Format Your Manuscript

2018: Then, when I shared this in 2018, it was already out of date as it was posted in 2011. This is still a useful guide, but if you’re in the submission phase to agents or publishers, keep in mind that each one may have their own requirements for manuscript formatting.

2020: Now, as I’m nowhere near that dreaded querying stage, I ignore everything but the basics for formatting.

Do I still use this link? No.
Instead, I use this link. I don’t know when it was put up,
but I have to believe it was within the last two years.

Grammar Girl

2018: Then, I thought I was going to use this site so, so much. As it turns out, I prefer physical books for my non-fiction over electronic resources. Ones I own. Ones I can highlight and put post it notes all over.

2020: Now, as I get easily overwhelmed when I read informational blogs, I don’t visit as much as I used to. Mignon Fogarty’s mind still fascinates me with how many useful podcasts and tweets she puts out. So go check her website out if you’ve got any grammar-related questions.

Do I still use this link? No.
I do still follow her Twitter account here.
And now I’m questioning the validity of my own grammar in this blog post….

Heinz History Center

“The Heinz History Center is more than just one building. Part of The Smithsonian network, its main focus is Southwestern Pennsylvania.”

2018: Then, all I had to say about this history center was what’s above. In actuality, I only included it because I hoped to utilize its resources. I never did.

2020: Now? I still haven’t used it. Including the link in the original post was part of a grand research project I wanted to do. That project no longer exists.

Do I still use this link? No.

Historic Pittsburgh

2018: Then, my exact words were “Tired of seeing Pittsburgh themed links? I promise, I’m nearly done highlighting my city! […] The fact that there’s so many organizations dedicated to preserving its history, with so many people interested in its history, should come of no surprise as to why my first novel series will include it.”

2020: Now, after many many many revisions, I don’t know how it would work. What I wrote following the aforementioned statement is still true: “Historic Pittsburgh is supported by The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, the Chatham University Archives and many others to pool resources for research and preservation. Everyone sees history through different eyes, so it’s a good thing that there’s more than one organization preserving our past. Check with your local city to see if they have sources you may not have thought of.”

Do I still use this link? No, but I wonder: would it be a great tool for my grandma’s ancestry research?

Janice Hardy | Fiction University | Critique Groups

2018: Then, my introverted self would never even have considered joining a critique group.

2020: My still introverted self has yet to join. I’m also still far from any sort of critique stage (and I shelved that 2018 novella), but I do peruse the articles from time to time. I also wonder if I’ll ever be brave enough to join up. Directly from Ms. Hardy herself,

“This is for writers who are looking for critique partners or critique groups for more than just “I need some eyes on this before I submit it to an agent” type critiques.”

Do I still use this link? Yes.

Library of Congress Ask A Librarian

2018: In 2018 I’d no idea how valuable a resource this would become…

2020: …and now? I send them questions and topics I need assistance with several times a month! Their staff is fantastically thorough and I cannot recommend them enough.

Also, as I was unable to visit my local library earlier this year, I was still able to send Ask A Librarian questions save for a short period when they were closed as well.

Do I still use this link? Absolutely! One caveat: if the government’s shut down, this resource will be unavailable for the duration of that shut down.

LitRejections

2018: Back then I’d no idea how publishing works. I only knew of this phrase, “my query received another rejection,” and didn’t even know what a query was.

2020: Today I’m a bit more versed in *some* of publishing’s inner workings (the unagented, unpublished side of it), and learned it’s best to encourage other writers/authors than think of them as your competition. But that’s a blog post for another day.

“LitRejections was founded with the sole purpose of encouraging writers as they go through the rigorous process of becoming a published author. They offer several types of critiques, links to agencies in particular countries, interviews with folks deep within the writing industry and encouragement through their social media.”

Do I still use this link? No, but most definitely will when I hop into the dreaded “query trenches!”

The No. 1 Rule for Flashbacks in a Story Opening

2018: Back in 2018 I wrote: “Flashbacks. When done well they can provide important insight into a character’s motives or actions. They also run the risk of providing far more backstory than what the reader truly needs to know. It’s a tricky business, deciding to add a flashback, dream sequence or something equally vague at the beginning of a story. Contributor Peter Selgin takes us through several scenarios on what to include and what not to include. And when. A very useful post indeed.”

2020: Nowadays I barely write flashback scenes. It’s not that I find them completely unnecessary. It’s because flashback scenes scare me. What tense should they be written in? Should I introduce a new character within the flashback? Is the flashback actually necessary? Any time I find myself thinking about adding one, I revisit this link.

Do I still use this link? Yes, especially if I need a refresher.

Most Common Writing Mistakes: Characters Who Lack Solid Story Goals

2018: Back then Miss KM Weiland appeared a lot on this site. She was one of the first folks I connected with when I revamped my Twitter account.

2020: Now I don’t remember if I bought her books on writing first, or communicated through DMs first. However it happened, I’m glad to have found her site. Her posts, like the one above, are some of the best I’ve found. And it doesn’t matter if you’re brand new or if you’ve been “in the biz” for a long time. There’s certainly something there for everyone.

Do I still use this link? Yes.

The Past Tense in English

2018: It was in 2018 I realized I needed to go back to school. Back to my high school English classes and revisit my language’s confounding grammar rules. Here’s a cold hard truth: I’m not the only one who struggled with it. My troubles were quite evident to my beta readers who didn’t know what they were in for when they agreed to read early versions of FOR ONE NIGHT (my now-shelved novella).

2020: Two years later I’d like to think I’ve improved. No one’s seen my writing since then (save these blog posts). I guess I’ll find out when I begin a search for my next group of betas. Remember: It’s okay to not know everything about writing. It’s a whole beast on its own!

Do I still use this link? Yes.

Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra Archives
Query Tracker
What Kind of Author Are You?
All three of these are no’s.


Whew! What a list! As with anything subject to the passage of time, I think it’s safe to say I’ve outgrown this list.

Perhaps a future post will contain new, more current resources? Tip: Find that perfect combination of resources which fit your needs and run with them.


My Seven Writing Goals for 2020

2019, for me anyway, was a rather directionless year. Every time I tried to set a schedule, or curb my procrastinator nature, my laziness grew by leaps and bounds. Yes, you read that right. I am a lazy writer. And I don’t want to be.

2020. Not only do those numbers roll right off the tongue, they begin a new decade. My overall goal for the decade is to become a published author (dear God…if I do it within the next ten years I’ll be 44. Excuse me as I have a pre-mid life crisis). I digress.

They say that having seven items on a to do list is a magic, accomplish-able number. I kept trying to think of an eighth, but I decided to stick with seven. Do any of them look similar to your own goals? We shall see! Let’s start with finishing Project Firedamp:

1. Finish Project Firedamp
I recently read somewhere that it can take ten years (or MORE) to finish a writing project. Oh my! I officially began my journey in 2016. So, going into 2020, this will be my fourth year of dramatizing, character building (and killing, ha), outlining and researching. I think that world building for fantasy, sci fi and historical stories are the hardest of all the genres.

It took J.R.R. Tolkein twelve years to complete The Lord of the Rings. Whether you prefer the book over the films and vise versa, you can still see why his story resonates with so many people. I think that every writer strives to create worlds as realistic as Middle Earth.

My story isn’t as fantastical as Aragorn fighting with a horde of cursed, dead soldiers, but one of my other goals within the “Finish Project Firedamp” umbrella is to increase my skill in that department.

2. Tour more historical sites
As my story takes place in the 1890s, I’ve got some fantastic, real locations around my own hometown to explore. The problem is, I haven’t properly explored them as an adult.

When my sister and I were kids, our parents would take us on “Destination Unknowns.” Sometimes they were to historical places around the city of Pittsburgh, sometimes to a Pirates baseball game at Three Rivers Stadium (now demolished and replaced with Heinz Field and PNC Park. See? I can’t help but offer information like that!) At the time we’d get annoyed because we weren’t told where we were going.

If we were told, it’d defeat the “unknown” part, right?

Eventually, Dad stopped taking us on those ventures, but we’d still tour museums, Mt. Washington in South Dakota, etc. when we went on vacation. Here’s something I never told my dad – I think all those “Destination Unknowns” planted this historical adventure seed inside me as a child. It’s waited years to sprout. Now’s the time.

Now Dad’s retired, and my sister’s kids are a bit older. I think it’s time for Destination Unknowns to return!

3. Bring more story themed decor into my home
Although Project Firedamp is set during the Victorian Era, I can’t seem to bring myself to go all ham on decorating my home with the Victorians’ style. Throughout my research journey, it seems like they appreciated clutter, deep jeweled colors with gilded elements, dark polished wood and floral patters enhanced with lace.

As much as I want my writing environment to reflect that setup, my minimalist-centered brain won’t allow it. So I’ve settled on shabby chic; the cheaper(?) cousin to true Victorian style. I can live vicariously through the upper class Victorian ladies in Project Firedamp, and incorporate Victorian-on-a-budget in real life.

4. Visit the Library of Congress for a day
I have family down in Maryland, so it’s entirely plausible that I can spend a weekend exploring the famed, marbled grandeur that is the Library of Congress. During the initial stages of Project Firedamp research, I ran into several road blocks when it came to certain places. When my local libraries had very little on a subject, I discovered the Ask a Librarian link on the website for the LoC.

Let me tell you – they’ve got some fantastic researchers working there! Depending on the demand, and if there isn’t a government shut down happening, they’ll send you multiple links, documents, and titles of books they think will be helpful for your project. Sometimes it ends up going nowhere, but there’ve been times when I’ll open a link and it’s information solves EVERYthing.

So not only do I want to spend a day in those same stacks, I want to see if there’s some crazy book on the upper levels that will point me towards a national treasure.

5. Build a paper organizer
This may seem like a silly goal, but I really want to custom build a paper organizer for my office. Between crafting and writing, I’ve got a LOT of paper. The problem with pre-built ones is, not only are they super expensive, but they come in standard sizes that won’t work in the space I have.

Enter in my job at a home improvement store!

Granted, I don’t get a discount, but I also don’t need super expensive materials to complete the project. Earlier this year I built the table I’m typing on, and put together nearly every piece of IKEA furniture I own (not without at least a LITTLE bit of help along the way). At least, with my organizer, I can specify measurements and cater it to my needs as a creator.

Or it could just, you know, downgrade into this:

6. Write in Tennessee (aka go on vacation)
This one’s pretty self explanatory, albeit a pretty important hope of mine for 2020. I don’t go on vacation as often as I’d like (because priorities), but every few years my family and I trek down to Tennessee and spend a week tucked away in a cozy cabin surrounded by the Great Smoky Mountains.

If you’re a forest person like I am, and that sounds AMAZING, because it is.

Picture writing in a screen-enclosed porch (to keep out the mosquitoes of course, a couple snacks, and the Tennessee summer. If I ever won the lottery (that I never play), I’d buy a cabin in Tennessee and summer there just to write every year.

A girl can dream, right?

7. Hand copy a novel
This may seem like an odd goal; hear me out. If you’ve spent any time online, deep in the trenches of the #writingcommunity tag, I’m sure you’ve seen tweets from folks who do this type of thing. I always thought it odd as well, until I thought more on it.

As someone who knows she has trouble with grammar, hand copying a novel, or even just a few chapters, can help. One of my biggest problems is I’m personally drawn to longer sentences and words used in the Victorian style. However, that form of writing just isn’t widely accepted in the modern age and I’d greatly limit my audience if I went that route.

The challenge with this goal: choosing WHICH novel to work from. I have a couple in mind (none of them are The Lord of the Rings), from a few favorite authors. Maybe I’ll finally figure out why I love them so much!


Do any of my writer goals for 2020 reflect your own? What are your goals? Are you further along in the journey than I? Share some of your thoughts in the comments below and let’s complete some writing goals by this time next year, or even sooner!

Good luck!


18 Links Any Writer Can Use

To be borderline cliche with this post’s opening statement, the Internet can be a vast, confusing place. With so many voices giving advice both good and bad, how do you even begin to choose what’s right for you? So, then, how can you trust anything I have to say?

I didn’t mean to go all philosophical with this post, but it went there. It’s been a while since I’ve blogged, my most recent being 62 Things I’ve Decluttered or Stopped Buying. And it’s not even about writing! I do a lot of tweaking on my website. Probably more than I should.

Earlier this evening I revisited the Quick Links page I put up many moons ago. Granted about half of them are regional in respect to where I live, but I still think they’re useful to anyone digging into history or research of any kind. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania is a historical, informational hub, and I hope to one day add my stories to it. For now, here are 19 Links Any Writer Can Use.

1. 85 Hashtags Writers Need to Know | Amanda Patterson

Social Media. Niches. Hashtags. I’d like to think I’m a savvy enough individual to keep up with these things, but when you consider every type of platform out there, you realize that it’s physically impossible to keep up with all that plus your writing. I didn’t even know the #histfic tag that I now use from time to time. Here’s the thing. There are so many tags, communities and connections out there that it can get confusing very quickly. This post helped me narrow down my options and I still use those tags to this day.

2. 100 Best Websites for Writers in 2018

Okay, yes. I’m aware that it’s 2019. We’re 3/4 of the way through the year and soon it will be 2020. Regardless, Dana Sitar via The Writer Life covers a variety of topics in the list, giving everyone a chance to shine. From Nicole Bianchi and Re:Fiction to Comps & Calls and Enchanting Marketing, this is a great resource no matter the year. Take a look and maybe you’ll find some gems that’ll help your journey.

3. Allegheny County Library Association Card Catalog

While I can be quite nostalgic in that I miss the era of paper card catalogs – pulling tiny wooden drawers open, cards made up with typewriters, and “return by” inked on by a stamp – I do have to take a moment to show my appreciation for the ACLA Card Catalog system. During the initial research phase of Project Chronicles I used them a lot. And I mean a LOT. I reserved books, was able to request books from other counties, or from libraries within Allegheny I wouldn’t have had time to visit. I’d definitely suggest joining your local library system. They’re incredibly helpful and know how to dig up things you may not.

4. AskHerePa

This link banks off the ACLA one in that it’s another librarian based resource. I don’t know if this is a federally funded or state funded thing, or if it’s available in every state, but Pennsylvania has a fantastic resource that anyone can use. With options to chat online, access to e-resources and more, I used this several times when trying to find info on a Pittsburgh landmark which no longer exists. So it may be worth it seeing if there’s a system similar to AskHerePa in your area.

5. Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh Oliver Room

Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh holds many rare and unique collections of historical importance, especially those that illuminate the rich cultural heritage of Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania. These historical collections are held at the Main Library in Oakland, as well as in neighborhood libraries throughout the City of Pittsburgh.

One of Andrew Carnegie’s goals was, through philanthropy, make resources available to the American public. The same American public who worked in his mills and places he had connections to. As a result Pittsburgh has its Oliver Room. They preserve historical documents and gives patrons an opportunity use them in a safe environment. The other thing I find really cool about them is that they have genealogy records, rare books and Pennsylvania topographical maps. One of these days I need to take a day and explore this great resource.

6. The Editor’s Blog: How to Format Your Manuscript

I confess. This one might be a titch out of date, as it was posted in 2011. Dear Lord, that’s eight years ago! I’m sure much more than a “titch” has changed. This is still a useful guide, but if you’re in the submission phase to agents or publishers, keep in mind that each one may have their own requirements for manuscript formatting.

7. Grammar Girl

Grammar Girl was also mentioned on the 100 Websites for Writers List 2018 (linked above). There’s a reason for this. She covers a variety of writing topics regarding words and punctuation. She covers things I wouldn’t even think of and I learn something each time I visit. Definitely check out Grammar Girl!

8. Heinz History Center

The Heinz History Center is more than just one building. Part of The Smithsonian network, its main focus is Southwestern Pennsylvania. There’s the Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum, Fort Pitt Museum the Meadowcroft Rockshelter and Historic Village…I think I’ll stop there. They are experts on knowledge of my region in the United States, and I’m grateful for the work they do. They also post a weekly blog centered around historical events most may not know happened.

9. Historic Pittsburgh

Tired of seeing Pittsburgh themed links? I promise, I’m nearly done highlighting my city! But Pittsburgh is one of the most historical cities on the Eastern seaboard. The fact that there’s so many organizations dedicated to preserving its history, and so many people interested in its history, should come of no surprise as to why my first novel series will include it. Historic Pittsburgh is supported by The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, the Chatham University Archives and many others to pool resources for research and preservation. Everyone sees history through different eyes, so it’s a good thing that there’s more than one organization preserving our past. Check with your local city to see if they have sources you may not have thought of.

10. Janice Hardy | Fiction University | Critique Groups

Now this is something I’ve yet to participate in because the introvert in me is still afraid to do so. It’s been several years since I first bookmarked her site and I forget who introduced it to me, but she has a series of novel writing books on structure, revising and understanding how things work together.

The point of this particular inclusion is to highlight the Critique Groups section. If you don’t want to share your MS with completely random strangers you’ve never interacted with through social media, this may be the place for you. Directly from Ms. Hardy herself, “This is for writers who are looking for critique partners or critique groups for more than just “I need some eyes on this before I submit it to an agent” type critiques.”

I’m far from any sort of critique stage (as I’m working on a rewrite of my novella), but I have this on standby for when the time is right!

11. Library of Congress Ask A Librarian

This one operates in a similar fashion to AskHerePa but on a larger scale. These librarians are highly trained professionals who can help you research any topic you approach them with. They are a bit slower to respond as they take their time, or if you message them on the weekend, but they are thorough in the types of resources they provide you with. One time I received not only web links but book titles my local library may be able to get for me. I highly recommend giving this free service a try!

12. LitRejections

This may seem like an odd one to include, but aren’t rejections a part of every writer’s query journey? Let’s face it – we offer ourselves up as tribute (lame Hunger Game reference there, I know) each time we send our work off to someone. Then the rejection comes in – hours, days, weeks or months later – and we find ourselves disappointed yet again.

LitRejections was founded with the sole purpose of encouraging writers as they go through the rigorous process of becoming a published author. They offer several types of critiques, links to agencies in particular countries, interviews with folks deep within the writing industry and encouragement through their social media.

13. The No. 1 Rule for Flashbacks in a Story Opening

Flashbacks. When done well they can provide important insight into a character’s motives or actions. They also run the risk of providing far more backstory than what the reader truly needs to know. It’s a tricky business, deciding to add a flashback, dream sequence or something equally vague at the beginning of a story. Contributor Peter Selgin takes us through several scenarios on what to include and what not to include. And when. A very useful post indeed.

14. Most Common Writing Mistakes: Characters Who Lack Solid Story Goals

Miss KM Weiland appears a lot on this site. No, I don’t know her personally. She is, however, one of the OG (original) folks I connected with when I first got involved in the online writing community. I don’t remember if I bought her books on writing first, or communicated through DMs first. However it happened, I’m glad to have found her site. Her posts, like the one above, are some of the most insightful I’ve found.

15. The Past Tense in English

Grammar. I love to hate it and hate to love it. The cold hard truth: I know I’m not the only one who struggles with my grammar. I’m constantly second guessing myself whenever I write something down, be it on this website, in email correspondence, in a notebook or a Tweet.

My trouble became quite evident to my early beta readers as I switch from tense to tense. At least I’ve yet to mix up which form of POV I’m using in a manuscript (knock on wood). I still have to refer to sites like No. 15 for a quick refresher course every now and then.

Remember: It’s okay to not know everything about writing. It’s a whole beast of a learning process on its own!

16. Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra Archives

Back in 2016 I was granted an amazing opportunity to tour one of my city’s most historic music halls. Home to the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, Heinz Hall offers visitors a variety of shows and events throughout the year. A couple years ago I attended a Harry Potter night and everyone had a grand time.

Heinz Hall provides an opulent, rich setting any writer would love to include in a story. They have their own unique history as well as a curator who cares for it. Of course this is specific to the orchestra, but if you have a theatre scene in your story, consider checking out actual locals. They may have a curated, dedicated history center you can utilize.

17. QueryTracker

Why is QueryTracker frequently mentioned in online resource lists? Because of the type of resource that it is. Many established agents and agencies use it to connect with writers, and some use it exclusively for manuscript queries. Gone are the days of mailing giant stacks of paper in manila envelopes (though some still do). There’s still the Writer’s Market [insert year here], a printed guide book you can use. But QueryTracker is a faster method of searching for agents and what their MSWL (manuscript wish lists) are. And guess what? It’s free!

18. What Kind of Author Are You?

And here’s yet another article by KM Weiland. She’s just that good, okay? While this post doesn’t specifically use the word voice, as in a writer’s voice in their story, it did help me understand the concept a bit more. When I first worked with beta readers I was often complimented on my voice. But…what did that even mean?

Eventually, you’ll find what works for you. Do you need a certain technological tool to help you write? Or do you enjoy looking up obscure words and weaving them into your tales? Do you prefer writing in the mornings, afternoon or evenings? This post encourages you to find just that.

Whew! What a list! At one time I considered removing the section from my website and keeping them to myself, but why not share? I may have a resource you never even knew existed.

I suppose there aren’t as many Pittsburgh-themed links as I anticipated, but they’re still just as useful as the others. Expand your knowledge. Look in places you may never have thought to go, and you may be handsomely rewarded with knowledge you never had before.

I think today’s a good day for an adventure.