Before I start, let me be clear that I’m talking about WIPs on their way to being published, not for polishing that final manuscript. Jenna Moreci has a video on Easy Budgeting for Writers for when you reach that stage. Here’s an older video on How Much Does It Cost to Publish a Book?
I’ve recently read a few forums with experienced/published writers giving new/budding writers great advice on creative writing courses, getting an editor to go over their work, and paying for beta readers. But that’s not financially possible for those of us with day jobs that just about cover our existing bills.
I’d love to take a really good creative writing course and share with fellow writers in person. I’d love to get all the wonderful software that helps me create polished work. I’d love to send some sample chapters to a professional editor for some real feedback and the main things I need to work on. But money doesn’t grow on trees.
I’ve already shared some writing tools and useful software in Let’s Get Technical. But here are some things I use within my budget.
Expanding Your Writing Skills
Joining a critiquing website has been an amazing learning process (see below from more), but it’s good to find other ways to learn that don’t involve expensive courses.
Invest in a good grammar for writers book. I have a few books from “The Busy Writer” series by book editor Marcy Kennedy.
There are some decent online course, according to the forums I follow, but again, they cost money. Masterclass and Skillshare are ones I hear about a lot. However, there are a ton of YouTube videos giving advice. Advice is subjective as I mention in this post, but for writers getting started, they are some great videos for you to think about.
I typed “writing advice” in YouTube and recognised several of my favourites on the first page. They’re more idea and concept related, but they’re great to get you started with plot ideas, characters, avoiding common mistakes.
Meg LaTorre is another one I follow.
A freebee from Margaret Atwood, also on Masterclass.
Scrivener is pretty cheap and a one-off payment. But I find OneNotes a great free alternative for organising ideas. I created a new notebook for each WIP with tabs for notes and ideas, outlines, feedback, characters, word building etc. Each tab has multiple pages with the different versions of my outlines, different characters with full descriptions and inspiration images, and feedback by chapter or beta version depending on how I have received it.
OneNotes is also available on Windows (obviously), Android, and Apple devices. I haven’t checked if it’s on Linux, but you can access it through most browsers, including Firefox, so you can basically access it anywhere.
I decided to keep my Office 365, but if I had to, I could use Google Docs. I save my writing to my Gdrive so I can access, share, and edit in Chrome. There are extensions worth flipping to Chrome when editing. You don’t even need to pay for a word processor. Also, you can save offline versions of your work in the Gdrive app and Chrome or get the free Google backup folder for automatic synchronisation on your computer. You can open, save, and edit as a Word .docx or Google document.
The best thing about using Google Docs is the extensions. Which leads me to…
Pro Writing Aid and Grammarly have free extensions for Chrome and are super useful to pick up silly writing mistakes. That’s not to say they pick up everything, so you need to do a good run through yourself.
This is where Natural Reader comes in handy. Again, it’s a free TTS extension on Chrome. It uses either Microsoft voices built into Windows or Google voices via Chrome. I personally prefer Google’s voice because it feels more natural. They even offer twenty minutes per day of the premium voices, so if you want to go through a poem, flash fiction, or a short scene, then you get this included.
Sharing Your Writing
I use Critique Circle, which is convenient because it’s all online, and it’s free to join and share in the public queues. This is where any member can submit a story for review and any member can review it. You earn the same credits as everyone else when you critique a story, and you pay the same in credits when you submit a story.
For the paid version, you get private queues where you can save credits, invite specific people to review your work, and submit as often as possible. I do recommend this version because it really helps with learning and getting more tailored feedback. If there is anything I suggest you invest in early on, it’s a good critique site.
I can’t rave about this site enough. They have great forums for sharing thoughts and ideas as well as helping with publishing advice when you get to that point. I admit I roll my eyes at some of the things people say on there at times, but I’ve learned what kind of advice best suits my work. For example, I write fantasy, so if everyone said that I need to dial back on the visuals, then I’d be concerned that I’m overdoing it. But if only one person made a big deal of it when I’m trying to describe something unique to that world, that would concern me as to whether they really understood the genre.
Long story short… Writing isn’t cheap, but whether it’s a hobby or leading to a second career, it’s worth investing a little from the start then saving up for the bigger costs as and when you really need them.
Featured image by Comfreak at Pixabay.