Advice & blogs for writers

Caleigh Minshall

Occasionally I receive emails from writers who want to get published by the Porcupine’s Quill. Unfortunately, we can’t publish everything – PQL has a pretty strict mandate and we only publish 10-12 books a year. I always try to make sure in my emails that the writers know that even though PQL isn’t the right fit, they should keep working at their craft and keep submitting their work for publication elsewhere.

This isn’t a writing blog, but there are a lot of great online resources out there – by professional writers, editors, etc. – that will help you improve your writing and also your approach to getting published. Here are five blogs I think are really useful to writers, with a slant towards getting to know how publishing works (since that’s what I’m doing as an intern, too).

1. Nathan Bransford’s Blog

Nathan Bransford is an American literary agent whose blog is full of wisdom about query letters, the publishing industry and what he looks for in a book. Unlike a lot of publishing insiders blogging out there, Nathan is always very kind when giving advice and appreciates the hard work (and tears?) that authors put into their novels. Although I find he tends to lean more towards commercial fiction than literary – or at least his readers’ questions do – overall he has a pretty good balance of content for everyone.

2. Miss Snark

Although ‘Miss Snark’ stopped blogging in 2007, her blog is still a fantastic (and sidesplittingly hilarious) resource for writers. Another literary agent, Miss Snark loves cruel and unusual punishment for her readers but that’s what makes it so much fun. She treats everyone terribly. Miss Snark’s blog features less musing on the fate of the industry and more nitty-gritty analysis of query letters, synopses, how to approach editors, etc.

3. The Rejectionist

The Rejectionist is another hilarious read, but unlike Miss Snark is still going strong. The Rejectionist has a wider focus than Snark, and occasionally seems to privilege hilarity over actual, useful information, but the blog gives a good feel for how some publishing companies work and for how not to piss off the people who work in said companies.

4. Chasing Ray

Chasing Ray is a blog written by an actual – gasp – writer. She is a novelist and also an accomplished publishing industry journalist and book reviewer, so her blogs are always a pleasure to read. Chasing Ray offers a cozy combination of personal musings and informative details on how writing as a career has worked for her. Unlike the other blogs I’ve posted, she focuses more on literary fiction instead of commercial or genre fiction, so her blog is especially useful if you are hellbent on being published by PQL one day.

5. Query Shark

Query Shark has a very specific focus: query letters, and nothing else. The anonymous blogger accepts query letters from readers and then offers revisions (or tears them apart) on the blog. The ultimate goal for any readers is to eventually convince Query Shark to say “yes” – to accept the first couple chapters of the manuscript. Most of the queries lean towards commercial fiction but there are a few really beautiful gems in there, and Query Shark’s suggestions will help tighten up novels just as well as they do queries. Many of the query letters I receive could really use help from Query Shark, even if the manuscript isn’t all that bad. There really is an art to writing an enticing teaser for your book.

Next week [EDIT: and by next week I actually meant next year (!) — post is here], I’ll post five blogs for people interested in the publishing industry! (As publishers, not writers.) Happy weekend, everyone!

About Caleigh

Intern at the Porcupine's Quill.
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The Porcupine's Quill would like to acknowledge the support of the Ontario Arts Council and the Canada Council for the Arts for our publishing program. The financial support of the Government of Canada through the Canada Book Fund (CBF) is also gratefully acknowledged.